Highlighted are a few legislative issues addressed during the 2016 Legislative Session, which concluded on Friday, March 11.
State Financial Assistance for Dental Graduates
The FDA successfully advanced legislation sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) and Rep. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) that would create dental care access accounts. Funds in these accounts could be used by dentists to repay their student loans if they agree to participate as a Medicaid provider and work in an underserved area for at least two years. Eligible dentists who are able to participate in this program would have to secure local support that could be matched up to three times by the state at a maximum of $100,000 per year for no more than five years. (Vetoed by the governor.)
Regulation of a Dental Office
The FDA was able to remove language that would have made it permissible for a dental office to be considered as and regulated under the same laws as an ambulatory surgical center, mobile surgical facility and an abortion clinic. Current law specifically states that an office maintained for the practice of dentistry shall not be construed to be an ambulatory surgical center.
Study on Pediatric Dental Services in Medicaid
The FDA advocated for a bill that requires the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPGA) to provide a comprehensive report to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2016 on dental services provided under the Medicaid Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) program. It also requires the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to implement an independent, statewide Medicaid dental program for children and adults unless the Legislature acts differently during the 2017 Legislative Session.
Clarified Medicaid Reimbursement to Health Access Settings
The FDA worked collaboratively with the Florida Dental Hygiene Association (FDHA) to pass legislation that clarifies that health access settings are eligible for Medicaid reimbursement when hygienists administer fluorides and sealants without the supervision of a dentist. This legislation codifies a joint legislative effort between the FDA and the FDHA during the 2011 Legislative Session.
Maintained Educational Standards
The FDA stifled any legislative efforts to bypass the Florida licensure process for graduates of non-accredited dental schools. The FDA supports maintaining quality educational standards for dentistry, and for all Floridians to have access to safe and effective dental care.
Stopped Increase of CE Requirements
The FDA stopped legislation that would have increased the continued education (CE) requirement for domestic violence and child abuse from two hours to three hours and required it every biennium instead of every third biennium.
Maintained Licensure Standards for Military Spouses Who Are Dentists
The FDA successfully maintained current law that requires spouses of active military members who are dentists to apply for a temporary license, and if granted, may practice under the indirect supervision of a Florida-licensed dentist.
Community Water Fluoridation
The FDA championed efforts to get $200,000 in the state budget for community water fluoridation. The funds will be housed in the Department of Health to provide financial assistance to local city and county governments for a variety of issues including start-up efforts, maintenance and upgrades to water fluoridation equipment.
Two Coordinators for Donated Dental Services
Funding was approved in the state’s budget for $170,000 to support the hiring of two full-time coordinators for the Donated Dental Services program administered through Dental Lifeline Network. As a result of the advocacy efforts of the volunteer FDA members who participate in the program, the Legislature took the appropriate steps to support a program that has a significant impact on individuals in the community who would otherwise seek care in the emergency room. (Vetoed by the governor.)
Supported Healthy Food Options
The FDA supported legislation that would allow certain independent grocery stores and supermarkets to apply for a loan to stock their shelves with fruits, vegetables and other healthy food options. This legislation could help many Floridians who do not have fresh produce readily available to them to improve their dietary habits; thus, leading to an improvement in their oral and overall health.