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Entries in Legislative (31)


Rob McKenna Fundraiser - Join us Tonight! 

DentPAC and grassroots dentists invite you to attend a fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna tonight at 6:30 pm. Here are the event dentails:

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2012 Legislature: Regular Session Adjourns, Special Session Begins

Last Thursday, March 8, marked the end of the 2012 60-day legislative session. The regular session proved to be very eventful but the Legislature failed to pass a supplemental budget to close the $500 million shortfall in state’s current two year operating budget. As a result, Governor Chris Gregoire convened a special legislative session focused on passing a supplemental budget and other large budget issues. Special legislative sessions carry restrictions that do not exist during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the Legislature can only focus on budget issues during this special session and cannot deliberate on other policy issues. Here’s a breakdown on what happened on the major legislation that WSDA followed during 2012 regular session:

What Passed:

SB 5620
SB 5620 authorizes the creation of certified dental anesthesia assistants (CDAA). CDAAs will be allowed to assistant oral surgeons will patient monitoring, initiate and discontinue intravenous lines, administer emergency medications, and perform are duties under direct verbal command. The Dental Quality Assurance Commission will now begin writing rule for the new law.

SB 6131
SB 6131 was a minor technical amendment to Washington’s bulk mercury law which takes effect in June. SB 6131 clarifies that dental amalgam and other commercial devices containing mercury (such as switches used in airplanes) are not included in a ban on the sale, purchase, or distribution of bulk mercury. SB 6131 was supported by the Department of Ecology, WSDA, and several business groups.

HB 2319
HB 2319 is Governor and Insurance Commissioner requested legislation for implementing the federal affordable care act in Washington. HB 2319 clarifies the responsibilities of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board of Directors, what health benefits must be included in health plans, and market rules for health plans offered inside and outside of the exchange. Under federal law, pediatric dental benefits must be offered in health plans offered in the exchange but HB 2319 requires that all dental plans must be offered separate from medical plans to ensure that consumers can more easily compare dental insurance options. WSDA will continue to monitor how the affordable care act will be implemented in Washington and advocate for the best interests of the profession and dental patients.

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WSDA Dentists Respond to ER Reports

WSDA President Dr. Rod Wentworth and Snohomish County Dental Society President Dr. Stephen Lee jointly wrote an editioral piece in the Everett Herald last Friday. The piece was written in response to an Everett Herald editorial about utilization of hospital emergency rooms for dental care.

The entire piece is included below or can be read here:

Education, state aid are essential

The Herald's editorial "Sign of a system in crisis" brings attention to the importance of oral health and the use of hospital emergency rooms by people with dental problems. The solution is seemingly simple: good oral health practices can prevent costly emergency room visits.

As dentists, we see two key barriers to this solution: lack of knowledge about the importance of oral health and Washington's fractured dental safety net. We believe finding cost effective solutions to these problems will reduce dental related emergency room visits and improve the overall health of our residents.

Low oral health literacy is one of the most significant barriers to dental care. Dentists cannot provide care unless patients see a need for treatment. Even among people with dental insurance, less than 60 percent visit the dentist for regular preventive care. Laws and regulation will not change this, but education can. The Washington Oral Health Foundation, the charitable arm of the Washington State Dental Association, works throughout the state in schools and community centers to educate people about the importance of oral health. Only when we address issues like fear, cultural and language barriers, and lack of knowledge will we begin to solve real problems for many Washingtonians.

Unfortunately, programs that provide dental care for low-income people have been severely cut in Olympia. That penny-wise, pound-foolish decision will result in more pain for patients and more expense for taxpayers. Washington dentists are doing their part, providing charity care to more than 100,000 patients in 2011 alone. However, charity care is not a sustainable health care system.

Some, like the Pew Foundation, suggest that a lesser trained person with no real supervision should treat the most vulnerable. As dentists we know that, instead of lowering the quality of care to those most in need, the better answer is dramatically ramped up prevention and oral health education programs -- prevent the problem before it becomes an emergency.

Dr. Rod Wentworth, president
Washington State Dental Association
Dr. Stephen Lee, president
Snohomish County Dental Society


Special Session Wrap-Up

This fall, Governor Christine Gregoire called the Legislature into a special session to address a  projected $2 billion dollar shortfall in the current biennium (2 year) budget for the general fund. In response, the Legislature compiled a supplemental budget package with nearly $480 million in budget cuts as a "down payment" on entirely closing the budget shortfall during the 2012 regular session. Cuts in the supplemental budget include workforce reductions, delaying payments to school districts, and transferring $83 million in unused funds from the last biennium back into the general fund. The special session budget package did not include further cuts to dental Medicaid funding, the UW School of Dentistry, or any other dental related programs. While the $480 million in cuts reduces the budget shortfall, more work will need to be done during the 2012 regular session.

Difficult budgetary decisions still remain and further cuts to the dental safety net and the dental school will be up for discussion. Here's a list of dental programs that will be discussed:

  • Eliminating non-emergent dental care for the remaining patient populations in the adult dental Medicaid program. These patient populations include adults with developmental disabilities, pregnant women, and long-term care patients. (Approximately $8 million)
  • Eliminating the enhanced fee for the UW School of Dentistry DECOD (Dental Education in Care of Persons with Disabilities) program. DECOD receives this enhanced fee because the program trains dental students how to provide treatment for the DD population. The DECOD program cannot continue to operate without this enchanced funding. (Approximately $700,000)
  • Eliminating the Volunteer/Retired Provider Malpractice Insurance (VRP) program. The VRP program pays the malpractice insurance and licensure costs for retired health care practitioners who only provide uncompensated care at free clinics, community health centers, and other charitable clinics. Approximately 100 dentists and dental hygienists participate in the program along with another 600 health care practitioners. (Approximately $220,000)
  • Reductions in the reimbursement rates for some or all of the dental procedures in dental Medicaid may be considered. These reductions would likely be made at the agency level to close an agency budget shortfall.

WSDA will continue monitoring all state budget activity and provide updates as they develop. Please contact with any questions.