Governor's budget slashes dental services for California's poorest families

Jan. 11, 2008
Cuts would affect more than 6.6 million beneficiaries, including children, adults, the disabled and elderly, California Dental Association says.

SACRAMENTO, California--Dentists throughout the state are devastated by news that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to cut dental services for the poorest families.

According to the recent release of the governor's budget summary, these cuts could amount to more than one-third of the program. This will affect more than 6.6 million beneficiaries, including both children and adults, including the disabled and elderly.

Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing millions of dollars in immediate cuts to the 2007-08 Medi-Cal budget, which includes a program, Denti-Cal, that provides dental care to many vulnerable California citizens. He is not only proposing a 10 percent cut in dental reimbursement rates, but is planning to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2008-09 budget year, including eliminating the entire program that provides dental care to adults. So although the Administration is referring to a 10 percent across-the-board reduction, total cuts to dental services are closer to 35 percent.

"Even if the Governor only cuts provider fees by 10 percent, this will destroy the dental program because providers will just give up and opt out. Remember that year after year, reimbursement rates have been reduced making it impossible to treat patients when dentists are only reimbursed for literally pennies on the dollar," said Dr. Brian Scott, President of the California Dental Association. "The Government made a commitment when it created this program, and for years critics have blamed providers for not being able to figure out how to provide care on a shoestring."

"In past budget crises, CDA has worked with Governor Schwarzenegger and his Administration to contain costs and readjust benefits and reimbursement rates to work within the state's budget, but we're growing weary of this fight, and can't fix a broken system alone – it absolutely requires the courage and commitment of every legislator and elected official in this great state," says Dr. Nagaraj Murthy, a member of CDA's Government Affairs Council. "We remain committed to assist the Governor in offering solutions, but reducing oral health care expenditures by a third unfairly penalizes the dental community and the vulnerable California families they serve."

For more information, visit California Dental Association.