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ADA outlines priorities for oral health to new HHS secretary

February 14, 2018

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — To improve the oral health of all Americans, the ADA is asking the U.S. Department Health and Human Services to prioritize three key issues in 2018: eliminating regulatory burdens, improving Medicare and Medicaid and continuing to raise professional awareness about opioids.

In a letter from ADA President Joseph P. Crowley and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin to new HHS Sec. Alex Azar II, the Association outlined ways it would like to work together to provide patients with the best oral health care possible.

On the heels of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ proposed rule that removes the Medicare Part D enrollment requirement for dentists and rescinds the enrollment requirement for dentists to provide supplemental services to patients enrolled in Part C, Drs. Crowley and O’Loughlin once again thanked the agency for listening to organized dentistry. They added that the ADA would also like for HHS and CMS to eliminate the enrollment mandates for providers who do not perform Medicare-covered services and are not reimbursed for these services.

“Dentists who only order tests and services do not receive Medicare reimbursement and are unlikely to order the same for patients without good cause,” wrote Drs. Crowley and O’Loughlin.

The ADA also asked HHS to rescind the final rule regarding Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act since the final rule has proven “exceedingly difficult” to advise ADA members on compliance and “increased confusion and costs.”

The Association said that while it strongly supports nondiscrimination in health care and equal access to health care for all patients, “we believe the OCR rule is unnecessary, does not benefit patients and should be rescinded. The statute is already in effect and additional regulations are not required to implement it. Instead, we recommend that OCR simply enforce [Sec. 1557] as written without the promulgation of regulations.”

The ADA also urged CMS to fill the agency’s vacant chief dental officer position in order to ensure that “oral health services are prioritized in a manner equal to medical services,” reminding HHS that tooth decay remains the most common, chronic disease for young children.

“Regular access to preventive services, oral health education and necessary restorative treatment can go a long way in paving the way for children and adults to achieve optimal oral health,” wrote Drs. Crowley and O’Loughlin. “The chief dental officer is dentistry’s strongest voice in advocating for robust oral health and the absence of one further undermines our ability to best serve our Medicare and Medicaid patients.”

The letter concluded with the ADA urging HHS to continue working with the ADA and other federal agencies and private groups to raise professional and consumer awareness about opioids.

“We would like to continue to work with you and the agency on other educational opportunities to raise professional awareness about the opioid epidemic and encourage more judicious prescribing of opioid pain medications,” Drs. Crowley and O’Loughlin said.