Sacramento Leaders Declare Pediatric Dental Care Emergency

SACRAMENTO Sacramento elected and public health leaders today urged the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to help children opt-out of Sacramento’s troubled Geographic Managed Care (GMC) program so that they can receive long-overdue dental care through other programs.  Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who as a pediatrician and former First 5 Sacramento Commissioner has long called for oversight and reform of Sacramento’s GMC service delivery model, hosted the gathering of leaders at The Effort Oak Park Clinic, where he sees his Medi-Cal and uninsured patients.

“Our children must have direct access to dental professionals until proper reforms and oversight can be implemented,” Dr. Pan said. “This model has been effective in some cities and states, but without proper oversight, it has been a disaster in Sacramento.  Reports have shown that payments from the state are being made, but care is not being provided.  Sacramento is often dead last in the state in terms of kids seeing the dentist.”

In a recent letter, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called on DHCS to “take immediate action to rectify this crisis in prevention and treatment services,” including improving access to services by “at least temporarily providing for patient enrollment in Medi-Cal Fee-for-Service dental services until flaws in the existing managed care system are rectified.”

“I look forward to partnering with Dr. Pan to bring better dental care to Sacramento, as he’s a leading pediatrician who has seen the problems firsthand,” said Steinberg. ”The DHCS effort to rework the contracts for next year and to require more accountability is all good as far as it goes, but it’s not enough. What about the needs these children have right now? It’s simply unacceptable for bureaucratic problems to stand in the way of providing critical dental care these children deserve now and in the immediate future.”

In 1994, DHCS initiated the GMC model program in Sacramento, giving dental providers a set amount of money per enrolled Denti-Cal patient, regardless of whether or not the patient is actually provided services.  After studies were conducted by organizations including the First 5 Sacramento Commission and most recently a partnership between the Center for Health Reporting and the Sacramento Bee, it has become clear that less than a third of Sacramento’s children on Medi-Cal see a dentist in a given year, compared to over half in other areas of the state that use other payment models.

“The First 5 Sacramento Commission is working to bring to an end to the suffering of children who go for years with dental problems that can and should be fixed,” said Debra Payne, Sacramento First 5 Commission Program Planner. “Sacramento children deserve better, and we will continue to work with Dr. Pan and all of the leaders stepping up to make sure kids are receiving proper dental care.”

Other participating elected and public health leaders included Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, Sacramento City Councilmember Jay Schenirer and Sacramento District Dental Society Executive Director Cathy Levering.  The press conference was immediately followed by the first in a series of hearings looking at California’s dental care safety net to be held by the Assembly Select Committee on Healthcare Workforce and Access to Care, which is chaired by Dr. Pan.