Each year a multitude of policy issues that affect dentistry are considered and debated by the United States Congress and General Assembly of Virginia. These are issues that affect your livelihood in the dental profession as well as the patients that you serve. The Association’s legislative strength is proportional to the number of members involved. Strength lies in numbers! We encourage you to become involved in the Association’s legislative activities on a national and state level to ensure that legislators make decisions that are in the best interest of the profession and dental patients.
2015 Virginia General Assembly Session Review
The 2015 General Assembly came to an end on February 28 and no doubt it will go down as one of the most amiable in recent memory; even adjourning early and passing several important pieces of legislation and significant budget amendments with relatively minimal public bickering. No doubt the credit for the 45 days of minimal partisan posturing goes to the leaders of both parties but, make no mistake, the fact that all 100 members of the House and 40 in the Senate are facing re-election in November contributed to the member’s predisposition to quickly get in and out of town with minimal controversy.
With that backdrop, it was not surprising to have a relatively quiet 2015 for the VDA. A less combative year like this is important every now and again as it gives the Association membership and its legislative allies time to breathe and determine what the key strategic priorities for the profession and patients you serve should be moving forward. You can rest assured we will have more than our fair share of battles in the years ahead. No matter, there were still several topics of importance on which the VDA was involved during the GA session:
- Mandating Certain CE Requirements. HB 2358 (Rasoul) was introduced late in the process. The legislation would have made it mandatory for the Virginia Board of Dentistry to establish regulations to include a mandatory requirement for continuing education on the topics of substance abuse, addiction, and related pain management for all dentists. Such mandatory requirements are not typically part of the Code. We worked with the patron, the Medical Society of Virginia and others to ensure this bill died in committee, which it did in early February. The issue will be reviewed by the Governor’s Prescription Drug Task Force on which the VDA’s Executive Director, Dr. Terry Dickinson, serves.
- Putting Pressure on the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to Implement the Medicaid Deferred Compensation Legislation. As you may recall, the VDA requested a bill to be introduced that passed unanimously during the 2014 General Assembly Session that would allow dentists to put some compensation earned from the Smiles for Children dental Medicaid program into a tax-deferred Virginia Retirement System account. We spent a great deal of time researching and lobbying this legislation and, as noted, at the time of passage there was no objection to bill. Since that time, DMAS and DentaQuest have raised concerns about the cost implications of implementing the program – originally estimated at $50,000, for some reason, that number has increased tenfold to over $500,000. There is language in the just passed budget that requires DMAS to report to the money committees on their implementation progress by no later than July 1, 2015. We don’t anticipate much in the way of positive movement. Medicaid Benefits for Pregnant Women. Introduced in the Governor’s budget, Medicaid coverage for pregnant women was approved by the General Assembly. The program took effect March 1, 2015 for pregnant women who are 21 and over and enrolled in a Medicaid and FAMIS. Additional information can be found HERE.
- Another Dental Study by the Joint Commission. A study resolution was introduced – SJ 240 (Favola) – that would have mandated the Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC) to review dental care for older Virginians and recommend ways to improve access for this group. We met with the patron several times on this topic and, while we applauded the goal, we explained that a) we had just completed a nearly 3 year JCHC study centered on the topic of access; b) were already working on a nursing home pilot project; c) the issue in this case often comes down to who pays the freight and there were no budget dollars for it; and d) the VDA was very willing to work with some of the groups advocating for this study to develop solutions outside of a formal, political and time consuming effort. The legislation never made it out of the Senate Rules committee and the JCHC has told us that they have no plans to take it up in the year ahead.
- Non-Covered Services. The optometrists introduced legislation (HB 1444) similar to the 2010 VDA non-covered services bill. In fact, they used the same patron as we did to carry their water, Delegate Lee Ware (R). They followed a similar playbook to ours and we made sure the insurance companies saw us watching at every turn. We need to review the final product with the Council on Government Affairs at the VDA as there may be some extra bells and whistles on their legislation that we may need to pursue. Stay tuned.