Ohio governor signs access-to-care bill

Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently signed a bill into law to help improve access to dental care across the state. House Bill 463, the Ohio Dental Care Modernization Act, was backed by the Ohio Dental Association (ODA) and passed unanimously by the Ohio House and Senate.

"House Bill 463 will improve access to much needed dental care for all Ohioans in a safe, effective way," stated ODA President Thomas Paumier, DDS, in an ODA Today story.

The bill was developed from recommendations by the ODA's Task Force on Auxiliary Utilization and Access to Care and approved by the 2013 ODA House of Delegates. The recommendations were provided to policymakers seeking solutions to Ohio's access-to-care concerns, and they are aimed at improving access to quality, comprehensive dental care by focusing on delivery system enhancements and workforce development, according to the association.

The bill calls for a study on dental Medicaid reimbursement policies and fees by representatives of the Department of Medicaid, Department of Health, legislators, and dentists. Ohio ranks 40th in the nation in reimbursement for Medicaid dental services, and Ohio dental providers have not seen a fee adjustment since the 2000 state fiscal year, according to the ODA.

The bill will also double the Ohio Dentist Student Loan Repayment program, which has placed 26 dentists in dental professional shortage areas since it began 10 years ago. The program is fully funded through a $20 surcharge on dentists' licensure fees every two years and funds student loan repayment for applicants working in shortage areas who treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. In recent years, loan repayment applications have exceeded the capacity of the program, and the bill increases the surcharge by an additional $20 to double the program.

At the request of the Ohio Dental Hygienists' Association, the bill creates a similar dental hygienist loan repayment program that will be funded through a $10 biennial surcharge on dental hygienists' licensure fees.

The legislation also creates a temporary volunteer professional license for dental providers from other jurisdictions who participate in free care events such as Give Kids a Smile, Mission of Mercy, Remote Area Medical, and other programs.

In addition, the bill includes provisions for workforce development. It helps dental residency programs by creating an alternative pathway to licensure for residents who successfully complete an accredited program. These graduates would not be required to complete a regional board exam to secure state licensure. The legislation provides these programs with incentives to continue to recruit qualified residents.

Other provisions include modifications to the Oral Health Access Dental Hygienist Supervision Program to improve its effectiveness, expansion of general supervision to allow expanded function dental auxiliaries (EFDAs), certified dental assistants, and dental assistant radiographers to practice on a limited basis without a dentist being present, and to allow a dentist to supervise up to four hygienists at a time.

The bill also expands the Ohio First Scholarship program to apply to dental education. Ohio First awards scholarships to those pursuing science-based training and medical education. The bill adds dental education to those scholarship opportunities.

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