Tooth decay is the most common chronic illness among California children and is five times more widespread than asthma, according to the “2016 California Children’s Report Card” issued by the advocacy group Children Now.
The report states that 55 percent of California’s low-income children are enrolled in the state’s Denti-Cal program, a Medi-Cal affiliate, but fewer than half received dental care in 2015. Denti-Cal is a public insurance program that provides services for low-income individuals and families who meet eligibility requirements.
On June 1st, 2015, Western Dental had stopped accepting new Denti-Cal patients in 13 California offices, citing low Denti-Cal reimbursement rates for this change. (Click here to read more.) They are now opening their doors to new and returning Denti-Cal patients at all 160 of its California offices. Western Dental providers served Denti-Cal patients in approximately 1 million visits in 2015.
Nevertheless, California’s reimbursement rates for Denti-Cal still rank 48th out of 50 states for Medicaid and are roughly one-third of the rates paid by private insurers. Inadequate reimbursement has been criticized by oral health advocacy groups as a prime cause of limited access to dental care for low income children throughout California.
Research by health advocates indicates that the dental problems experienced by many low-income California children are largely preventable.
“Western Dental has a long-standing commitment to patients of all economic means throughout California,” said Dr. Ronald Inge, DDS, Chief Dental Officer at Western Dental. “Western Dental has been treating Denti-Cal patients for nearly 50 years. It’s very important to us that children receive the preventive services they need and get timely quality dental care.”
Prior reports have estimated that a small percentage of California’s licensed dentists are active in the Denti-Cal program, and of those, less than 1 in 5 sees 100 or more Denti-Cal patients per year. Western Dental dentists account for one-third of the dentists in the state who see more than 100 Denti-Cal patients per year.