Cavity Kids
Poor Sacramento children have low access to dental care


Cheri Flores brushes son Julian's aching teeth in early December. The boy developed decay as a toddler from falling asleep while drinking a bottle. She says he wasn't seen at 1 1/2 on his first dental visit or at two subsequent appointments. (Lezlie Sterl

'Model' dental program proves painful for kids

Almost two decades ago, the state made Sacramento County the testing ground for a new model of delivering dental care to poor children. Officials envisioned a managed care system that would control costs and improve children's ability to see a...

California state Senate president demands investigation into Sacramento child dental providers

State Senate President pro tempore Darrell Steinberg is calling on the state Department of Health Care Services to investigate allegations into “lax accountability and inadequate patient access” for poor Sacramento children with Medi-C

Steinberg seeks state review of Sacramento Co. dental program

Senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg is calling for a state review of a Sacramento County pilot program that provides state-funded dental coverage for low-income children.

Sacramento Bee Editor: Fresh look sees flaws in kids' dental plans

Last Sunday's lead story in The Bee carried a byline familiar to longtime readers, that of Jocelyn Wiener. That familiar name, though, came to you through a new form of collaborative journalism. Jocelyn left almost four years ago to travel and live...

State health chief vows changes to Sacramento County dental program

The state's Medi-Cal chief, under pressure to improve dental care for Sacramento's poor children, pledged this week to implement changes so kids won't have to wait months to receive treatment for painful, rotted or broken teeth. In response to...

Steinberg presses Medi-Cal chief to fix dental plan -- now

The political back-and-forth over Sacramento County’s failing Denti-Cal program is heating up. Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, on Monday called on the state’s Medi-Cal chief to take immediate action to improve dental care...

Demands escalate to change kids' dental plan in Sacramento

Political opposition to Sacramento County’s managed care dental program for poor children is mounting, and Thursday was a particularly busy day in the campaign for change. State government officials promised new accountability after elected...

State Senate head's proposal: Give dental choice to poor kids

Seeking to break managed care’s monopoly on dental care for Sacramento County’s poor children, state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg plans to introduce legislation to allow more choice in who kids can see, his aide told the Sacramento County Board...

Senate panel backs change in kids' dental coverage

The Legislature took its first formal step Thursday to free Sacramento County's poor children from the confines of mandatory managed dental care. A Senate committee unanimously approved a proposal by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-...

KQED: Response to outcry over kids' dental program

Since February, reports from the CHCF Center for Health Reporting and The Sacramento Bee have painted a grim picture of low-income children waiting for months or even years to see a dentist in Sacramento. And now some state lawmakers are calling for...

Impact of 'cavity kids'

Reaction to the center's story about problems with geographic dental managed care in Sacramento County was swift and far-reaching. The day after the initial article ran in The Sacramento Bee, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg penned...

Oversight needed to improve Sacramento's dental plan

Recent media coverage of Sacramento County's failed dental program for poor children has sparked intense outcry, with elected officials and children's advocates leveling some of their harshest criticism at dental plans. Executives for one of those...

Dental care plan audited by California ceases operations

Community Dental Services, a managed care dental plan with about 16,000 Medi-Cal members in Sacramento and Los Angeles Counties, will cease operations and transfer its enrollees to Liberty Dental Plan on June 1, state officials announced Friday....

Managed care leaves many LA kids desperate for dental care

When state lawmakers learned that Sacramento County’s dental program for poor children has one of the worst records in the state, they immediately scheduled hearings and demanded reform. But the same statistics that revealed Sacramento’s dismal...

LA-area legislators criticize county’s dental program for poor children

Southern California legislators are vowing to press for changes in Los Angeles County’s dental program for poor children, saying it’s unacceptable that fewer than one in four kids on managed care saw a dentist last year. “Obviously, I’m concerned,”...

Bill passed could offer dental choice to poor Sacramento kids

Some low-income children in Sacramento County who have tried but failed to get dental care would have an escape route under a bill awaiting action by the governor. Currently, dental managed care is mandatory for the roughly 100,000 Sacramento County...

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,...

Blog Posts

How – and why – do some parents choose dental managed care for their kids? Confusion reigns.

Fact: Dental managed care for poor kids in Los Angeles County has a disappointing record: Fewer than one in four LA County children on Medi-Cal managed care saw a dentist last year.

Free dental clinic draws hundreds to Modesto

Crystal Goakey didn’t smile too big when she told me she’s 37 weeks pregnant. She was too self-conscious.

Does California need a state dental director?

In our ongoing coverage of Sacramento County’s dental plan for poor kids, we’ve reported on proposals to fix its performance, including a measure in the Legislature that would fundamentally change the way the Medi-Cal program works there.

Who's on first? In children's dental care, few know

Even the experts are confused. At two public hearings this week to discuss problems with Sacramento County’s dental care program for poor kids, not all the expert witnesses agreed on which California counties provide Medi-Cal dental services via...

Editorial Posts

Medi-Cal needs to move on helping kids

Perhaps the bureaucrats who run the state's Medi-Cal dental program would move more quickly to improve dental service for Sacramento kids if it were their own children waiting for months for their cavities, broken teeth and abscessed molars to

Editorial: Dental plan for poor kids is a mess

Imagine having a toddler with a painful toothache. You take him to the dentist you've been referred to by Medi-Cal, but your child is not seen. Months later when he is treated, all of his baby teeth are decayed and infected.


Jocelyn Wiener

Jocelyn Wiener is an Oakland-based writer for the Center for Health Reporting.

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