The Medi-Cal program, which provides health care coverage for qualifying California residents – announced this month that it will restore dental coverage benefits to its beneficiaries who lost their coverage as a result of state budget cuts in 2009. With the restored benefits, more Californians will be able to receive important dental care coverage that they had to go without for a portion of last year. The Medi-Cal program is offered through Health Net of California.
Many health insurance plans provide optional dental benefits for their plan subscribers. The optional dental health insurance benefits come with an additional monthly fee. Health insurance subscribers are not required to enroll in a dental health insurance coverage option even when they enroll in a health insurance plan. However, consumers should be aware that dental services and products are not covered under standard health insurance plans unless subscribers opt for dental coverage.
“Dental benefits are just as essential as medical benefits,” said Robert Shechet, DDS, director of dental programs for Health Net of California. “Studies have shown that poor dental health can lead to heart attacks, strokes, premature or low-birthweight deliveries, diabetes complications and other serious medical conditions. Through this offering, Health Net is helping Medi-Cal beneficiaries be healthier.”
The Medi-Cal program through Health Net provides comprehensive medical benefits to nearly 450,000 beneficiaries in Los Angeles County. Health Net of California provides Medi-Cal coverage in 10 counties across California, reaching more than 700,000 individuals. In addition to the Medi-Cal coverage that Health Net provides, it also provides Health Families coverage to about 150,000 consumers in 35 counties across California.
With specific regards to dental coverage, Health Net provides dental health care coverage to about 50,000 Medi-Cal participants in Sacramento and Los Angeles and to an additional 90,000 beneficiaries of the Health Families program.
Health Net has already been providing substitute dental coverage for Medi-Cal beneficiaries who lost coverage in the 2009 cutbacks. “Health Net is committed to helping Californians be healthy,” said Dave Meadows, Health Net of California’s vice president of State Health Programs. “We believe we are the only health plan in California extending dental benefits to adult beneficiaries, and providing substitute dental benefits to adults in the Medi-Cal program until the usual or similar benefits are restored is one more way we are working to preserve California’s medical and dental safety net.”
“Continued access to dental care is crucial for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, and even more so for those with disabilities and other challenging medical conditions,” said Irma Resendez, founder and president of Familia Unida, a non-profit organization serving thousands of individuals and families affected by multiple sclerosis and other conditions in Southern California. “Too often, we see people whose dental conditions deteriorate and later become medical problems because they do not have coverage for dental care and cannot afford to visit a dentist.”
California health insurance consumers should take time now to reexamine their health insurance plans to ensure that they have dental coverage. Unless they have specifically requested the optional dental coverage benefit, California health insurance plan members may not actually be covered.
Also, consumers should be aware of the importance of reviewing their health insurance plans annually to ensure that they have the right health insurance coverage for their specific needs. In some cases where dental health care coverage is too expensive for a consumer’s budget, the individual may want to investigate Health Savings Account options. With the Health Savings Account option, the consumer may be able to get more affordable health insurance as well as a tax-deductible savings account that can help them save thousands of dollars a year.
Consumers should speak with an experience health insurance agent in order to be sure that they are getting accurate and comprehensive information about their health insurance and dental insurance plan options. Health insurance agents will learn about consumers’ specific lifestyle and budgetary needs, and then find the most appropriate health insurance plans for those needs so that consumers get health and dental insurance plans that will truly meet their specific needs.