KPCC: Restoration of Medi-Cal dental coverage comes too late for many

Adrian Florido 
Miriam Martinez

Adrian Florido| Miriam Martinez has had to have five molars pulled because of decay. “If I’d had dental insurance, I’d still have my teeth,” the 52-year-old said.

Miriam Martinez’s mouth is a testament to what it means to be poor and without dental coverage. Several front teeth are capped with metal. She’s had three molars pulled in recent years, and has cavities in many of the rest. On a recent afternoon, she’d come to the Watts Health Center in South Los Angeles to have two more molars pulled.

“I can’t really chew my food,” she said, a dental bib hanging from her neck. “I don’t go to the dentist frequently because it’s so expensive.”

The 52-year-old Martinez gets health coverage through Medi-Cal, California’s insurance program for low-income families and individuals. And until five years ago, Medi-Cal recipients also got dental coverage through a program called Denti-Cal.

But in 2009, faced with a gaping budget hole, the state legislature eliminated dental coverage for adults, with the exception of emergency care. Five years later, with the state budget in better shape, some of those benefits are being restored.

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
  • St. Barnabas Senior Services

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