Capitol Alert: Study finds securing Medi-Cal dental care for children difficult

amantz@sacbee.comJuly 23, 2013 

Finding dental care for children on Medi-Cal is not always as easy as it seems, according to a study released by The Children's Partnership on Monday.

Parents of children on Medi-Cal can search the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website to find dentists in their area. Researchers with The Children's Partnership surveyed 145 of the 220 dental providers listed on the website as accepting children on Medi-Cal.

The survey found that nearly 10 percent of dentists who were listed as accepting new patients on Medi-Cal actually would not accept new patients.

Researchers called to schedule appointments for two children, a 10-year-old and a three-year-old. Approximately 19 percent of providers refused to treat at least one of the children because of their age.

Wendy Lazarus, the nonprofit's founder, said in a statement that even the relatively small percentage of providers denying care to children on Medi-Cal reveals a significant problem.

"The results of this study clearly show that some children who transition from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal face difficulties getting the dental care they were promised," Lazarus said. "Meanwhile, children currently enrolled in Medi-Cal continue to suffer from a lack of access to dental care."

The nonprofit also surveyed some providers in Spanish. The Spanish-speaking caller had trouble communicating with dental providers more than a quarter of the time.

Despite the drawbacks of the system, the survey also noted the positive aspects of the InsureKidsNow website. Researchers said the site is "easier to use and more helpful to families" than the previous state website.

Though researchers noted the survey only surveyed a small sample of dental providers in California, the nonprofit said the results "make clear that more work is needed to ensure children enrolled in Medi-Cal have easy access to dental care."

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