State Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, said he was thrilled that his bill intended to improve the use of California's youth dental care program was signed into law by Governor Brown the weekend of Sept. 24-25.
"The purpose of the Denti-Cal program is to provide children with oral health services, and we should encourage its use," said Cannella. "The impact of the low utilization rates leads to expensive dental visits, missed school days, and lost wages by parents."
Senate Bill 1098 is a response to the April 2016 Little Hoover Commission recommendations and the State Auditor findings titled "Fixing Denti-Cal," saying the program could not attract enough dentists and was unable to provide most beneficiaries access to care. The report contains a number of recommendations, such as the Legislature setting a target goal, which is currently in the low 40 percent range. Cannella's bill sets a 60 percent goal utilization rate and requires a report back to the Legislature by Oct. 1, 2017 on when the Department of Health Care Services projects it will be met.
The bill requires the development of a plan to get higher use of the program.
"I represent counties where there aren't enough dentists, and where the utilization rates are even lower than the statewide average," Cannella continued. "My hope is that this measure will improve the Denti-Cal program and therefore the health of California's youth."
SB 1098 had bipartisan support and was unanimously passed by the Legislature in August. It was also backed by the California Dental Hygienists Association, the California Dental Association, Little Hoover Commission and others, and will be enacted on Jan. 1, 2017.
At the same time, the Senator's SB 1112 was also signed into law, which helps small water companies.
Cannella aide David Orozco said too few families are using the program, which provides services on the basis of income qualification.