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ADA advocacy highlights from 2018

January 15, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The past year was full of big wins for the Association, including advocating for the Action for Dental Health Act and supporting landmark opioid legislation — both of which were signed into law.

Here follows some of the key advocacy issues the ADA addressed in 2018. 

Advocate

For the dental practice

Medicare regulations: The ADA worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to publish a final rule that changes the requirement to enroll in or opt-out of Medicare for the purpose of prescribing medications to Medicare beneficiaries covered under Medicare Part D. The CMS also eliminated a requirement was not yet implemented that would have required dentists who participate in Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) to enroll in Medicare. The rule went into effect Jan. 1. For more information, visit ada.org/medicare.

For the dental profession

Indian Health Service reform: The Senate Indian Affairs Committee passed S 1250, the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act of 2017, and the House Natural Resources Committee passed HR 5874, the companion legislation. Both bills call for a centralized credentialing process for health care providers at IHS facilities. The ADA remains engaged with IHS on how to best implement the centralized credentialing system and continues to advocate for its efficient implementation and management at IHS facilities.

Appropriations for federal dental programs: Congress passed the Labor-Health and Human Services and Defense minibus for fiscal year 2019. The spending package includes $461 million ($14 million increase) for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; $24 million ($4 million increase) for Title VII Oral Health Training; $39 million ($1 million increase) for Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) that support programs to help patients find treatment outside of hospital emergency rooms; and $10 million for military dental research. In report language accompanying the AHEC funding, legislators encouraged the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to work with state dental associations to address patient referral programs, supporting a key initiative in the ADA’s Action for Dental Health Program. They also recommended using $250,000 to develop an oral health awareness and education campaign across all relevant HRSA divisions. The ADA testified before the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee to advocate for $44 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and HRSA oral health programs.

Tax Reform: The ADA continues to monitor how the new tax provisions that were part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect dentists. In conference calls to the Internal Revenue Service, the ADA has worked to ensure that dentists can fully take advantage of tax reform. The ADA has also communicated with Congress about the Association’s support of making permanent certain tax provisions and also how legislators can continue to reform tax policies to be even more advantageous for dentists and their patients.

McCarran-Ferguson Reform: In December, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., introduced the first-ever Senate version of the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act. This bill would amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act to authorize the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to enforce federal antitrust laws against health insurance companies. In 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill, 416-7. The ADA will continue advocating for this in 2019. Find out more at ADA.org/mcf.

For patients and the public

Action for Dental Health Bill: In December 2018, the ADA-championed Action for Dental Health Act — which aims to improve access to oral health care in rural, underserved and Native American communities — became law. The new law will allow organizations to qualify for oral health grants to support activities that improve oral health education and prevent dental disease. It will also enable groups to develop and expand outreach programs that facilitate establishing dental homes for children and adults, including the elderly, blind and disabled. For more information, visit ada.org/adhlaw.

Noncovered Services: The Dental and Optometric Care Access Act — also called the DOC Access Act — was introduced in the 115th Congress by Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, R-Ga. This noncovered services bill prohibits all health plans offering a dental or vision benefit from dictating what a doctor may charge a plan enrollee for items or services not covered by the plan. The bill now has more than 100 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House — the most cosponsor support ever garnered for this legislation. The ADA will continue advocating for noncovered services legislation in 2019.

Children’s Health Insurance Program: In early 2018, Congress reauthorized this program for 10 years. The program’s authorization expired in on Sept. 30, 2017, and the ADA, along with numerous stakeholders, advocated for its reauthorization. CHIP is a critical safety-net for American children who do not qualify for Medicaid, but whose families would struggle to afford private coverage, particularly dental coverage. The ADA has joined with the Organized Dentistry Coalition and numerous other stakeholder groups in this effort. Find out more at ADA.org/chip.

Opioid abuse: In October 2018, President Trump signed bipartisan legislation to address the opioid crisis that covered everything from continuing education and prescription drug monitoring programs to clinical guidelines and safe drug disposal. The ADA-supported bill was consistent with the ADA’s opioid-related policies, including the House of Delegates opioid prescribing policy that was adopted last October. Leading up to the bill’s passage, the ADA provided statements for congressional hearings, responded to requests from individual members of Congress, and commented on a range of federal agency proposals and requests for information about dentistry’s role in preventing opioid abuse. ADA leaders also met with top officials at Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, and the White House, including the U.S. surgeon general. Opioid prescribing was one of several issues taken up at the 2018 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. Find out more at ADA.org/opioids.

Surgeon General report: ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole and Past President Joseph P. Crowley met with the U.S. surgeon general to discuss how the ADA can play a leading role in updating the surgeon general’s landmark report on oral health. The first report, which is now 20-years-old, addressed determinants for oral health and disease. The forthcoming update — expected in 2020 — will document progress in oral health since 2000 and articulate a vision for the future.