CDA, others advocate for improved Medi-Cal reimbursement rates

In a hearing on Wednesday in Sacramento, CA, the president of the California Dental Association (CDA) and other experts testified that California's very low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates had become an access-to-care issue when it comes to the state's children receiving necessary dental treatment.

Walter Weber, DDS, of Campbell, CA, said California's low reimbursement rates -- in some cases about a third of the national average for some dental procedures -- make it "unfeasible" for many practitioners to see Medi-Cal patients.

Dr. Weber was testifying at the Senate Health and Assembly Health Committees joint oversight hearing on "Do Medi-Cal Rates Ensure Access to Care?"

In December 2014, a 92-page state audit found that more than half of the 5.1 million children enrolled in Denti-Cal, California's Medicaid dental program, did not receive dental care last year, and some counties lack providers to meet patients' oral care needs.

The audit blamed poor provider participation and low reimbursement rates, some of which have not increased since 2000. Those rates were cut by 10% in 2013. The audit reported that California's reimbursement rates for the 10 dental procedures most frequently authorized for payment averaged $21.60 -- only 35% of the U.S. average, according to the report.

Jenny Kattlove, senior director of programs at the Children's Partnership, also testified that these children who are enrolled in Medi-Cal were not getting the treatment they needed. She advocated for state investment in the Virtual Dental Home, which she said is "cost-effective and safe."

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