Legislature Advances Dental Socialism

FEB. 14, 2012


As voters are growing increasingly wary of ObamaCare, the President’s nationalized healthcare plan, voters in California are also growing skeptical of legislators’ attempts to increase statewide healthcare. Fully implementing health care for all has drawn legal challenges all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

California’s latest version of state-funded health care recently failed to pass the state Senate. However, it is not gone. Expect to see it reincarnated.

And now, state government-funded healthcare advocates are proposing parsing out pieces of the health plan to try to get it passed. And they are doing this with the media’s help.

In late January, the state Senate Appropriations Committee passed single-payer health care bill SB 810, by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, out of the committee on a party-line vote of 6-2. The committee estimated the cost of a single-payer healthcare system in the state to be as high as $250 billion annually.

However, the bill failed to pass the full Senate, surprising many supporters. This happened despite carefully scripted, dire warnings from legislators that  tooth decay in children can lead to a life in prison.

Leno didn’t even get enough votes from his own party to pass SB 810.

Next: Dental Care For All

Anyone observing the Legislature could see the next move coming from a mile away. Monday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced a state review of a Sacramento County pilot program that provides state-funded dental coverage for more than 100,00 low-income children.

Steinberg sent a letter to Department of Health Care Services Director Toby Douglas, and asked for an “urgent departmental review of the allegations with an accounting of proposed remedies to ensure timely access for more than 110,000 young patients whose dental needs are supposed to be met under the county’s managed care program.”

Steinberg’s letter is a response to a story by the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting, which ran in The Sacramento Bee on Sunday, February 12, 2012. The story documented the many problems with the “geographic managed care” dental system.

Steinberg referenced the report by the CHFC Center for Health Reporting, a project of University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. CHFC stands for California HealthCare Foundation.

The letter, posted on Steinberg’s Senate website, states, “It is with great concern that I write regarding the operation and apparent lack of oversight of Medi-Cal Dental Managed Care in Sacramento. I ask that you review the allegations and rectify the problems you identify.”

In what appears to be a carefully orchestrated legislative and media-supported event, Steinberg references the Sacramento Bee story as proof of the Medi-Cal dental need: “The February 12, 2012 article in the Sacramento Bee articulates the crucial patient need for timely and medically necessary dental care which is supposed to  be provided to patients enrolled in the Medi-Cal Program. Despite that state funding, disturbing specific patient cases as well as the department’s own data cited in the article make it abundantly clear that prevention and treatment services are woefully inadequate for those children most in need.”

The Sacramento Bee published an editorial today which states, “Dental plan for poor kids is a mess.” The Bee charged that “no one from the state bothered to monitor the program to make sure children were getting the services for which the state paid.”

A recently published report funded by First 5 Sacramento also document severe issues with Medi-Cal Dental Managed Care in Sacramento,” Steinberg’s letter addressed.

The report Steinberg references is available on the First 5 website. First 5 states, “Based on a recent survey of over 20,000 California children, it is estimated that 50 percent of Kindergarteners have dental decay. Poor oral health not only causes pain and infection, it is also one of the most common reasons that children miss school. In addition, it can lead to impaired speech development, an inability to concentrate, lower self-esteem, poor sleep.”

According to many medical providers, the bigger problem is that the very low rate of Medi-Cal reimbursement does not always attract the most qualified dentists.

And there is no discussion anywhere of parental responsibility. It does not take money to make sure that children brush their teeth, and eat healthy foods.

Plan B

The constant legislative references to the important need for dental care have been telling. “Twelve million Californians went without some type of health care last year,” Leno said during Senate floor debate in January. “500,000 children missed school last year due to tooth decay. This is criminal.” Leno said that tooth decay leads to missing classes, which leads to dropping out of school, no diploma, no job and eventually prison.

An equally goofy analogy was used by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. “Medicare for all extends to every human being in California. Our prisons are filled with people who couldn’t succeed in school because of dental pain, because they couldn’t hear or see,” said Hancock, drawing the same analogy that a lack of health care leads to prison.

Government Funded Managed Care

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed shifting hundreds of thousands of residents eligible for both Medi-Cal and Medicare into managed care plans, and claims that the moves will save the state close to $700 million. Brown has proposed authorizing the Department of Health Care Services to submit a demonstration project proposal to the federal government this spring, which would shift thousands of people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medi-Cal, into managed or coordinated care plans in at least four counties, eventually expanding to 10 more counties.

Steinberg has his own answer to Brown’s plan: “I am seeking timely resolution to improving these vital dental services to enable patients to obtain the prevention and treatment services they deserve,” he wrote in the letter.  “Furthermore, the significant issues identified here raise the overarching concern of whether or not the state is prepared and equipped to proceed with any Medi-Cal managed care program expansions this year as proposed in the Governor’s January budget.”

Where many voters disagree is with the use of the word “deserve.” While government is expected to provide basic services which individuals cannot provide for themselves — roads, water, utilities — expanding government into the health care for all is a growing bone of contention.

Government-funded state health care is predictably sponsored by the California Nurses Association and the California School Employees Association, and  would have provided healthcare for all 37 million California residents.

Without passage yet, expect to see legislation and more attempts like government-funded dental care for all.

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