Dentist-Congressman Urges Dentists to Stay Organized

May 5, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

In a speech before the Texas Dental Association, dentist and congressman Brian Babin said dentists won't have a voice in legislative and regulatory affairs if they don't have a strong, unified voice.

“I’m from the government. And I’m here to help you.”

That’s how Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) began his talk to the Texas Dental Association’s House of Delegates Thursday morning. And while he used President Ronald Reagan’s famous quote as a laugh line, Babin said he meant it sincerely.

One reason he wants to help is that Babin isn’t just a guest speaker. He’s also a dentist and a longtime member of the TDA, which is hosting its annual Texas Meeting this week in San Antonio.

However, much of Babin’s speech was focused on asking TDA members to help themselves, by remaining organized and lobbying elected officials to ensure new legislation and regulations don’t harm the industry.

“It is only by getting actively involved in organized dentistry that you will have a voice in the regulation of your own profession,” he said. “Believe me, it doesn’t happen by accident that dentistry does not have to withhold state sales tax here or have non-dentists owning your dental practices. Your association makes that happen by standing up for you in Congress and in the state legislatures across this country.”

Babin said now is a critical time for the dental industry. He noted a number of pieces of federal legislation that could have significant impacts on dentists and their practices.

Chief among them is HR 4062, a bill that would repeal an Affordable Care Act provision that requires dentists to either enroll in or opt out of Medicare in order to write prescriptions for patients with Medicare Part D. Dental industry trade groups are strongly opposed to the requirement, fearing that it would subject dentists to more regulation if they opt in, or limit access to care for seniors if a large number of dentists opt on.

Babin said dentists are right to fear an incursion of Medicare.

“This is simply the camel’s nose under the tent and I’m doing everything I can to stop it,” he said.

He said it’s a “no-brainer” that dentists ought to be able to serve Medicare Part D patients without having to be permanently bound to Medicare. Babin and his colleagues have succeeded in delaying the implementation of the mandate until next February, by which time the US will have a new president.

Babin also said he’s fighting for HR 3323, which would limit insurers’ control over what dentists charge for non-covered or barely covered services. Many states already have such limits, but this bill would apply to insurance plans that fall under federal regulation, and thus aren’t affected by the state laws.

Finally, Babin spoke in favor of repealing the McCarran-Ferguson Act, a 70-year-old law that protects the insurance industry from antitrust regulations. The 1945 law was originally intended to protect small insurers, but he said today’s insurance market is vastly different, and often dominated by an increasingly small number of behemoths.

“It’s time to eliminate that exemption and make [insurers] have to abide by the same rules that all other industries have to,” he said.

Babin said he’s fighting for that legislation, but he needs the support of groups like the TDA. He also said he needs their financial support. He invited the members to a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday afternoon.