June 8, 2010
Overall, dentistry gained footage on insurance law and lost and won on taxes, in what was a difficult budget session. WSDA dentists turned out in record numbers to lobby via VoterVoice, WSDA’s online lobbying program. That effort and effective one-to-one discussions during Dental Action Day and other venues, helped win victories and mitigate damage.
Non-covered Services – HB 2686
WSDA’s bill to prohibit insurers from limiting fees on non-covered services, passed the Legislature was signed by Governor Gregoire (Her comment on signing: “This is no-brainer.”) Some insurers didn’t see it that way and opposed the bill strongly.
Many dentists made this success possible by responding to WSDA alerts to contact legislators at key times. WSDA is greatly appreciative to Rep. John Driscoll (D-Spokane), the prime sponsor, who fought off attempts by insurers to amend the bill drastically; also Sen. Karen Kaiser (D-Des Moines), chair of the Senate Health Committee, and Sen. Steve Hobbs (D – Lake Stevens) who shepherded the bill through the Senate.
The law becomes effective June 10, 2010. The bill defines covered services that would be subject to fee limits as: “dental services that are reimbursable under the applicable insurance policy or subscriber agreement or would be reimbursable but for the application of contractual limitations such as benefit maximums, deductibles, co-insurance, waiting periods or frequency limitations”.
Budget cuts -
The budget passed by the legislature includes a $6.4 million reduction in dental Medicaid. This is half the amount proposed for cuts at one point in debate. Effective lobbying by many dentists and the Coalition to Fund Dental Access, which WSDA initiated in 2007, helped mitigate further cuts. The budget bill directs that, “The Health and Recovery Services Administration will reduce dental expenditures by focusing reductions on the fastest growing cost areas of dental care. Reductions in preventive care and particularly preventive care for children will be avoided if possible.” The cuts are in addition to $16 million in dental Medicaid reductions approved in 2009
A $2.4 million reduction was made in institutional spending in the state’s Residential Habilitation Centers that includes reductions in dental care. The crime victim’s compensation Medicaid reimbursement rates were reduced by $772,000 for dental and mental health.
Taxes enacted -
The final tax package includes a 0.30 percent increase in the B & O tax rate for services for three years beginning May 10, 2010. The increase raises the rate dentists pay from 1.5% to 1.8%.The tax exempts hospitals, and includes a permanent small business tax credit for service business with income of up to $72,000.
Taxes not enacted - HB 3191
A proposal to tax cosmetic health care services to fund basic health care programs and assistance to people with disabilities. Dentists lobbied in great numbers against this measure, pointing out that the language of the bill was not clear enough to allow health care providers to determine what is or is not to be taxed in every treatment case.