#CABudget Deal Restores Medi-Cal Dental & Optical Benefits

This evening, California leaders announced agreement on many items in the state’s 2017-18 Budget, including key improvements in the Medi-Cal program. Health and consumer advocates praise the restoration of dental and optical benefits for the Medi-Cal program that covers over 14 million Californians–and urged additional investments using revenues raised from Proposition 56 tobacco tax approved by voters last year.

In Budget Conference Committee, the Department of Finance and legislators stated that the use of Prop 56 dollars were still being negotiated, between the desire to make improvements and investment in the Medi-Cal program and the need for “fiscal prudence.” Our Health Access budget scorecard details the proposals in consideration.

ON DENTAL & OPTICAL BENEFITS: But until the Prop 56 investments are agreed upon and announced, the big news is the full restoration of Denti-Cal in January 2018, and the restoration of optical benefits in 2020. It’s been long past time for California to fully restore dental, optical–as well as other benefits—that were cut from Medi-Cal nearly a decade ago in 2009 during the Great Recession. Oral health is essential for everything from eating to employment, and this phase-in to full restoration of dental coverage in Medi-Cal will help countless Californians. Currently, Denti-Cal covers primary and preventive care and full dentures, but it’s an important step to also cover gum treatments, rear root canals, and partial dentures.

While Congress considers cruel cuts and caps to Medicaid, California is appropriately investing in this core health care program that covers over a third of our state and is central for the health system on which we all rely. Further negotiation will determine the additional improvements in the Medi-Cal program.

ON PROP 56 FUNDS FOR MEDI-CAL INVESTMENTS: As the final budget negotiations continue, we at Health Access strongly urge that California fulfill the promise of Proposition 56 as well as positive policy to improve our Medi-Cal program, restoring benefits and raising provider rates. These tobacco tax dollars could finally allow California to improve access to dental, family planning, and other physician and specialists, through targeted reimbursement increases. As Californians voted last November to invest in our Medi-Cal program multiple times, we need to continue to improve this pillar of our health system, as we fight against federal attacks.