Fighting the Medi-Cal Adult Dental Benefit Cuts

The funding for the Adult Denti-Cal program was removed by the governor in his January and May 2009 budgets. Center for Oral Health opposed this cut and continues to seek solutions to this problem. For more information, read COH's 2009 issue brief, Eliminating Medi-Cal Adult Dental: Costs and Consequences.

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The 2009‐2010 budget agreement by the California legislature and signed into law on February 20, 2009, eliminates the Denti‐Cal program for adults (“Adult Dental”), with the exception of federally required adult dental services (primarily emergency services), pregnancy‐related services and dental services for persons living in nursing facilities, unless federal legislation has been enacted that will make available by June 30, 2010, additional federal funds that may be used to offset not less than $10 billion in state general fund expenditures.

Elimination of the Adult Dental program will result in significant restrictions in access to cost‐effective preventive care and early intervention, leading to poor oral health and poor general health as well as significant short‐ and long‐term costs to the State budget and the State economy.

With the recently approved increases in federal match, California will forego approximately $134.5 million of federal matching funds, substitute more expensive services for less expensive treatments and preventive services, and exacerbate the problems of the safety net by placing more pressure on community clinics and emergency rooms. Other consequences will include lower participation by dentists in the Denti‐Cal program, fewer children receiving oral health services, and, ultimately, significant oral health and medical problems in low‐income pregnant women, women of childbearing age, children and low‐income, disabled and elderly adults. This brief details the health and access consequences for adults and children that will result from elimination of the Adult Dental program as well as the negative fiscal implications for the State.