Alameda County, Calif., Health Care Advocates, Patients Protest Proposed Elimination of Denti-Cal for Most Medi-Cal Beneficiaries
Health care workers, patients and community members in Alameda County, Calif., on Friday staged a protest to oppose a proposal that would eliminate adult dental coverage from Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, the Oakland Tribune reports. The proposal would not affect those living in nursing facilities. The Department of Health Care Services, which administers the Denti-Cal program, would also have to reduce providers' reimbursement rates by 10%, according to the Tribune.
Huong Le, dental director at Asian Health Services, where the protest was staged, said the center provided 10,000 visits to more than 3,000 patients in the past year, many of whom were elderly and non-English speaking. He said the proposal could result in wait times of up to five or six months, compared with three months currently. AHS and La Clinica de La Raza also have to lay off staff, Le said. Fifty percent of patients at both centers are Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
Ariane Terlet, dental director at La Clinica de la Raza, said the layoffs will lead to a domino effect, leaving many people in health-related industries unemployed and overloading emergency departments and county health programs.
"The lesser-known impact is the core economic effects," Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and CEO of Oral Health Access Council and the California Primary Care Association, said, adding that eliminating dental care also would "result in the loss of even more federal dollars." The state could lose $115 million in federal matching funds, according to OHAC, in addition to a projected a loss of more than 20,000 jobs. Opponents of the proposal called the cut from the budget "illusory savings," the Tribune reports (Lipsky, Oakland Tribune, 3/7).