Center wins a top California Journalism Award

The California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting has won a top honor in the California Journalism Awards contest.

Freelance writer Jocelyn Wiener and senior writer Emily Bazar will be toasted at an awards presentation in Sacramento this week. Their work on “Cavity Kids,” which revealed severe access problems for poor children seeking dental care, won the contest’s feature/enterprise division for print publications.

Their series of stories was published in The Sacramento Bee and several other California newspapers.

Wiener’s initial story disclosed that a unique Medi-Cal dental program in Sacramento County, which provides managed-care coverage for poor children, consistently produced some of the state’s worst access rates.

The story prompted immediate action. The state Department of Dental Care Services vowed to crack down on the managed care plans. And the president pro tem of the state Senate, Darrell Steinberg, introduced legislation setting stricter standards for the plans and giving parents new options. Subsequently, one of the Sacramento County managed care plans announced it was ceasing operations.

In the meantime, Bazar reported that a similar Medi-Cal dental program in Los Angeles County serving 150,000 children had even worse access rates.

Steinberg’s legislation was passed by both the Senate and Assembly, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The California Journalism Awards were established in 1994. Sponsored by the Center for California Studies, they “recognize, encourage and reward excellence in reporting of California state government, policy, or issues.”

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