As the 89th General Assembly winds down, dentistry continues to monitor the overall impact of legislative decisions. Republicans are the majority in the House and Senate for the first time since the Reconstruction Era, and the changes that have resulted from that shift in leadership have been more than noticeable.
With 80 percent of our legislative package complete, your ASDA staff continues to work the legislature with assistance from our members. We have many actions to mention:
DENTAL CONSULTANTS BILL: HB 1672 by ASDA member Rep. Deborah Ferguson (D-West Memphis) is now Act 427. This act assures Arkansas dentists that a denial of a dental claim was made by a licensed dentist who is a graduate of an ADA CODA-accredited dental program. It also requires that the dental consultant making the denial list his or her name, state of licensure, license number and contact information on the denial of benefit form.
REPEAL OF SALES & USE TAX ON DENTAL APPLIANCES: SB853 by Sen. Larry Teague (D-Nashville) is now Act 1414. This act removes the state sales tax on the production of dentures, partials, crowns and bridges, thereby establishing an equal taxation status with adaptive medical equipment. The effective date for the exemption will be July 1, 2014, so until then the tax will apply. This is ASDA’s 4th attempt in 15 years to pass this important legislation.
FUNDING FOR DENTAL EDUCATION (appropriation bill for Arkansas Department of Higher Education): SB122 – As Arkansas does not have a dental school, state funding to pay out of state tuition is critical to dentistry’s efforts to maintain student positions in regional dental schools. A proposed cut of 25% of the required funding for new students who would enter school in 2014 is a priority for our association. ASDA is making final push to restore full funding, plus additional allocations for unfunded positions at University of Tennessee in Memphis. At this point, we have no reason to believe that all positions for incoming dental students beginning in 2014 will be funded. However, dental students who are currently in the pipeline will be funded.
PHYSICIAN OFFICE-BASED SURGERY: HB1881 by Rep. Steve Magie (D-Conway) is now Act 587. This act removes ambiguous references to dental facilities from the Arkansas Department of Health regulations for outpatient surgery centers. It also adds language to ensure that oral and maxillofacial facilities in which general anesthesia services are provided are subject to the standards of the dental board, and are not subject to licensure or oversight by the health department. In addition, it requires the Arkansas medical board to promulgate rules and regulations for physicians who perform general anesthesia in their offices.
MEDICAID FAIRNESS ACT: SB788 by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) is now Act 562. This act provides assurances that Medicaid appeals cases will be heard by an impartial third-party administrative judge, and that the appeals process does not favor the state over providers.
PRIVATE OPTION FUNDING FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION – SB1020 by Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) became known as the “private option” bill due to its intent to fund the mandatory insurance coverage for persons earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. This option was viewed by the legislature as being a more acceptable option to adding the additional enrollees onto the state Medicaid program (expansion of Medicaid). Gov. Beebe signed the bill into law on Tuesday, April 23. Kathleen Sebilius, US Secretary of Health and Human Services, gave approval to the option in a private meeting with Gov. Beebe earlier this year. As a result, a number of other states are monitoring this issue as they prepare to provide their own expansion programs to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
MINIMUM WAGE HIKE - HB1402: failed in committee. Dentists and other small businesses have been uncertain what the new health care law will require of them, and passage of this bill would likely have resulted in unintended consequences to your staff size and payroll obligations.
LOCAL CONTROL FOR FLUORIDE - HB1312 by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) was voted down in House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee. The bill, sponsored , would have given local control over fluoride levels in water systems and given each public water system the right to determine whether it would adjust the quantity of fluoride in the water. Legislators were convinced that fluoridation efforts may have been thwarted if the bill had passed.
ASDA is currently tracking other issues and legislation of concern. Go to the ASDA Capwiz site for more information.
And if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact Billy Tarpley or Drew Ramey at (501) 834-7650.