Louisiana lawmakers postpone vote on school dentistry ban

The Louisiana House of Representatives agreed Thursday to set aside a bill that would ban or limit the use of mobile dentistry clinics in schools.

After an hour-long debate of several proposed amendments to H.B. 687, House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Terrytown) made a motion to temporarily return the bill to the calendar, saying that it was not in the best interest of anyone to do "piecemeal legislation."

In its current form, the bill would bar all dentistry in Louisiana schools except for dentistry done by federally qualified health centers; fluoride treatments, cleanings, and exams when offered for free; or sealants applied by either of two state-run universities.

The amendments proposed Thursday include:

  • A request for a waiver to be added to the bill that would require the state dental board to make a determination of whether a rural community or other community is an undeserved area for dental care within 30 days of receiving a request from a provider to practice mobile dentistry in an elementary or secondary school located in that rural community or other community (the amendment passed, 72-19).

  • A request that any school-based health clinic affiliated with a hospital be allowed to continue to operate (the amendment passed with no objections).

  • A request to remove the necessity that the mobile units be owned and operated by state or local government. "If a nonprofit or private person has been doing this for six months and has already invested in dental equipment and the mobile unit, they should be able to continue," said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-Baton Rouge), who proposed the amendment.

Rep. J. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), sponsor of H.B. 687, objected, saying, "If a unit is owned by state or local government, we can ensure the safety of the patients."

"The legislature shouldn't say that existing mobile dentistry units can't keep providing care -- they should grandfather them in," Rep. Richmond countered.

Rep. Pearson then withdrew his objection and the amendment passed.

The final proposed amendment drew the most debate. It requested the removal of a requirement that existing care providers will have provided dental services in a Louisiana elementary or secondary school for at least six months during the five years prior to the effective date of the bill in order to be allowed to continue providing their services.

Rep. Pearson again objected. "The intent of this bill is to try and provide a high caliber of care. Do we want schools to teach our children? Yes. And we want our children to receive dental care. But we do not want a rush of people into the schools who are just there to make a profit."

The amendment was defeated, 35-54.

Several other representatives voiced their concerns that, if the bill passes, too many children on Medicaid would not get the dental care they need.

"Rep. Pearson repeatedly talks about the kind of care our kids should receive, and I agree," said Rep. John Edwards (D-East Feliciana). "But this is the real world. These are Medicaid beneficiaries. There are only six dentists in the parishes I represent that will take Medicaid patients."

At that point, House Speaker Tucker proposed that the bill be set aside and that he, Rep. Pearson, and other members of the House develop another amendment that addresses concerns about safety but does not block the ability of children in need to have access to adequate dental services.

"We want to develop language to require and direct the dental board to come up with procedures that will ensure the safety of the children but also address access to care," he said.

Copyright © 2009 DrBicuspid.com

Page 1 of 223
Next Page