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ADA reviews draft Senate legislation

Sen. Sanders’ ‘ambitious bill provides investment needed for decades’

Washington—The Association cited “many provisions in your bill that we enthusiastically support” and offered to work with Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) in crafting his proposed Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2012.

The senator held a Feb. 29 Senate hearing on the “Dental Crisis in America: The Need to Expand Success” and shared with the Association a draft bill he expects to introduce. Speaking June 1 at the site of a dental clinic soon to open in Springfield, Vt., Sen. Sanders said that “more must be done in Vermont and the nation to address the national crisis” and that he would offer legislation to address access problems.

The ADA thanked the senator in a June 5 letter “for your efforts to break down the barriers that impede tens of millions of Americans from receiving regular dental care, many of whom suffer from chronic yet preventable dental diseases” and offered a section-by-section review of the draft bill.

“The ADA is committed to breaking down these barriers and there are many provisions in your bill that we enthusiastically support,” said the letter signed by Dr. William R. Calnon, Association president, and Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, executive director.

The Association offered comments on these sections of the draft bill:

  • coverage of dental services under the Medicaid program;
  •  case management grant program;
  •  oral health education of medical providers and other non-oral health professionals;
  •  emergency funding for oral health services;
  • dental clinics in schools;
  •  emergency room care coordination with respect to dental care;
  •  research funding;
  •  mobile dental services;
  •  dental education—dental residency programs and oral health professional student loans;
  • cost-benefit analysis report;
  •  coverage of dental services under the Medicare program;
  • National Health Service Corps;
  •  Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and
  •  Indian Health Service

The Association asked for clarification of some provisions, offered recommendations on others and said it could not support certain definitions and mid-level provider proposals.

“Clearly, this ambitious bill provides the degree of investment that has been needed for decades and it laudably acknowledges that oral health disparities represent a complex set of problems that call for multiple solutions,” the Association told the senator.

“In the larger sense, the ADA believes firmly that the public health approach to ending untreated dental disease in America will require a fundamental philosophical shift from the current model of surgical intervention to one in which disease is prevented before it occurs. The nation will never drill, fill and extract its way out of what (former) Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., famously called a ‘silent epidemic’ of oral disease.

“Again, thank you, Senator Sanders for your leadership, and we stand ready to work with you to achieve the best possible legislative outcomes in pursuing our mutual goal of a healthier, more productive nation.”