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CAC given more responsibility

June 18, 2012

By Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff

“Do the right thing,” said Mark Twain. “It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

A seat at the table: Dr. Jim Richeson, left, chair of the Council on Dental Benefit Programs, and Dr. Stephen Ura, chair of the Subcommittee on the Code, participate in a discussion at the Code Advisory Committee meeting in February.

This is a concept the Council on Dental Benefit Programs takes seriously, enough so to create a Code Advisory Committee that’s collegial, cooperative and a fair representation of all who are involved in adding, changing or deleting items from the CDT Code. Thanks to the care CDBP has taken to oversee the CAC, it’s a maintenance process that’s stronger and more responsive to the needs of dentists and the dental community.

Overseeing the Code maintenance process is just one way CDBP puts members first.

“The work of your American Dental Association, just in the area of Dental Benefit Programs, should alone make your ADA dues seem like a great value,” said Dr. Jim Richeson, CDBP chair. “When you take into account the work of all the ADA councils, the return on your dues becomes a tremendous value.”

Under the ADA Bylaws, CDBP has responsibility for CDT Code maintenance, as well as obligations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to oversee an open and participatory process.

“During its April meeting, the council listened to feedback from members of its Code Advisory Committee and felt comfortable expanding the committee’s responsibilities,” Dr. Richeson said. “The CAC provides an invaluable service by bringing a spectrum of views to discussion of CDT Code change requests. It is a logical next step to have the CAC vote on whether a change should be accepted or declined.”

ADA and payer representation is balanced, as it was with the Code Revision Committee, which preceded the CAC. There are also 11 additional voting members from independent dental professional organizations who now have a direct voice in CDT Code maintenance.

Changing the CAC to a voting body was one of several CDBP actions. Other process changes include:

  • Adopting of a new pair of simplified and focused CDT Code change request forms.
  • Setting Nov. 1 as the closing date for submissions to provide more time for interested parties to prepare and submit their requests.
  • Moving up the date for distributing and posting requests submitted on to Dec. 15 so CAC members and other stakeholders will have more time to review and prepare their comments for discussion at the annual CAC meeting.
  • Pushing back the annual CAC meeting to late February/early March to provide more time for change request review.
  • Extending the CAC meeting to three days, with the first dedicated to public discussion and comment on the CDT Code change requests.
  • The second and third days, open to observers, are for the committee to discuss and vote to accept or decline each change request.
  • Moving up the completion date for work on the next version of the CDT Code to June 1 to provide timely publication for members and third-party payers and more time for practice management system vendors to update their software.

The current CDT Code maintenance process incorporates best practices of other entities that maintain HIPAA medical code sets, such as CPT and ICD-9-CM. Information on the process, including reports of the latest activity, the change request forms, and timeline for the next version can be found online at Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature (CDT).

“The ADA believes it is imperative to keep members updated on this process. The CDT Code is something that affects every dentist, and it is also important for everyone in the community to understand how certain codes come to be and the rationales behind them,” Dr. Richeson said.

“We’re building an open and participatory environment where dentists, dental benefit companies and other invested agencies can learn what goes into creating the CDT Code.”

Questions and requests for additional information may be directed to CDBP staff via email at or via telephone to the ADA at 1-312-440-2500. CDBP staff are also available to answer questions on other areas of interest.

As the premier professional association of dentists, the ADA and its councils strive to provide the best member services and benefits.

“There’s no question about the value of being an ADA member.” Dr. Richeson said. “Pick any area and we are here to help. The legal department provides a free Contract Analysis Service to members with questions on agreements. The ADA is charged with maintaining and updating the CDT Code, the only government-designated terminology to document what we do in dentistry. CDBP is regularly interacting on members’ behalf with dental benefit companies. And the council helps ADA constituents provide Peer Review, an alternative to costly legal proceedings. Whatever you need, we are here to help.”