Governor signs bill granting poor children more flexibility in dental care

Under a budget bill signed last week by the governor, some low-income Sacramento children who have tried unsuccessfully to get dental treatment will be able to leave managed care for a program that offers more flexibility. Under the new provisions, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, parents who haven’t been able to get appointments for their children’s dental care can contact the state Department of Health Care Services.

If the department cannot set up an appointment within a reasonable time – to be determined on a case-by-case basis – the child can move into the “fee-for-service” Medi-Cal dental program. If the department can resolve the access problem, the child will stay in managed care.

The measure also creates new accountability and reporting requirements for dental plans participating in Medi-Cal managed care programs in both Sacramento and Los Angeles counties.

It went into effect this week. Currently, dental managed care is mandatory for the roughly 100,000 Sacramento County children on Medi-Cal. But the program has left many children waiting months for treatment for painful, rotted or broken teeth.

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