Louisiana bill threatens dental board

A bill passed June 21 by the Louisiana Legislature threatens the State Board of Dentistry with dismissal if it does not finalize rules regulating mobile dentistry by the end of the year.

The bill, which passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature, now goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

A June 18 conference committee meeting restored to the bill the threat of dismissal, which the Senate had stripped from it the previous week.

The bill's passage is the latest development in a yearlong skirmish over how Medicaid children should be treated. Some dentists in the state travel from one school to another, setting up temporary operatories in schools. The Louisiana Dental Association (LDA) last year supported a bill that would have banned this practice. Instead the LDA is working on a program to bring more such children into permanent dental offices.

Over the course of several hearings, the Legislature watered last year's bill to ban school dentistry. The final law, signed by Jindal on July 9, 2009, requires the board to make new rules for mobile dentists, but doesn't set a deadline. The new bill would impose a deadline.

Rule-making has proved difficult. The LDA insists on a rule that would require the school dentists to talk to children's guardians. The Federal Trade Commission calls that rule unfair because stationary dentists are required only to get written consent from the guardians. Backers of the new bill say it will spur the board to resolve the dispute.

Speaking to the state Senate on June 3, the dental board's executive director, Barry Ogden, said he feared that the LDA would ask for a legislative review, a process that could slow down the rule-making process even further, possibly pushing it past the January 1, 2011, deadline set by the new bill. The board members would not automatically lose their jobs; instead, failure to pass the new regulations would serve as grounds for their dismissal by the governor.

The LDA board supported the bill setting a deadline for the new rules, but has taken no position on the possibility of dismissing the board.

"We have not formally requested an oversight hearing," LDA Executive Director Ward Blackwell told DrBicuspid.com.

Copyright © 2010 DrBicuspid.com

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