Low-income Californians will have access to dental services they’ve lacked since 2009, under a law taking effect on New Year’s Day.
The budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June fully restores dental benefits for adult Medi-Cal patients that were cut during the recession.
Providers and community advocates recount horror stories of patients with tooth problems taking drastic measures.
“An extraction is covered, so taking the tooth out is covered, but fixing the tooth was not covered,” says Ariane Terlet, chief dental officer for La Clínica de la Raza in Oakland. “So, many patients opted to have teeth removed.”
Starting Jan. 1, Denti-Cal will pay for adults to receive crowns and root canals, when dentists certify those procedures are necessary. Lawmakers restored other benefits in 2014. In June, they also increased payments for dentists who accept Denti-Cal, after state reports showed nearly a dozen counties had no providers taking new patients.
The California Department of Finance estimates the expanded services will cost the state $35 million next fiscal year, and $73 million after that, with the federal government contributing an equal amount.