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End of Dental Program to Increase Hardships

End of Dental Program to Increase Hardships

The end of Denti- Cal, the state dental insurance program for the poorest of the poor in California is expected to have far reaching consequences. The program, which is scheduled to end in July, may prove disastrous to the people who were availing of the facilities.

Advocates of the program believe that not only will this result in a lack of basic dental care facilities for the poor, it will also shoot up the ultimate costs of care. This is because people who could have been treated for minor problems will now wait for them to get worse before they seek help.

The cancellation of the program is expected to adversely hit around 15000 to 20000 adults living in San Joaquin County alone. The California HealthCare Foundation predicts that it will affect about 3 million adults in the state. As most of these people will not be able to afford basic care without the plan, they will just pile up the problems till they cannot deal with it anymore. As a result, when these people do seek medical help, their bills will be much higher than they would have been had they secured basic treatment earlier.

The cancelation is also expected to adversely affect the kids receiving dental benefits, even though indirectly. They number about 25000 to 30000 in the San Joaquin County. This is because more and more dentists are expected to drop out of the program. Even the parents, who no longer receive dental care, may ignore the dental health of the kids. This is the exact reaction that took place earlier when Massachusetts cancelled its dental program.

The background of this cancellation was the failure of the state of California to qualify for the $10billion federal stimulus package. California had a deficit of nearly $1.8 billion. Several optional benefits under Medi-cal were cut by the governor. This included adult dental care, chiropractic care, optometry, podiatry, psychology services etc.

Denti- Cal is the primary source of payment for most community health clinics. For this reason, the decision is expected to have a serious impact. It accounts for at least 50 to 80% of the source of payments in these clinics. That is the reason why this decision is expected to have serious consequences.

Take the instance of Community Medical Centers Inc in Stockton which has11 sites operating in 3 counties. They handled around 8000 patients last year. Of these, 4000 were covered by the state program. About 50% of the treated patients in this group were adults. That means that 2000 adults in these clinics alone will go without dental care, if they do not pay for it themselves. It also raises the problem of many patients going without basic care till the problem escalates and the patient has to secure the services of an emergency ward. Essentially, a problem that could have been handled for around $45 is now treated for around $19400. It will also result in the shutting down of aaround256 community dental clinics.


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