Dentists Head to Washington to Lobby Congress

May 4, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

Dentists from around the country are in Washington, DC this week to urge support for key pieces of legislation affecting dentists.

Dentists from around the country are in Washington, DC this week, speaking with lawmakers and ensuring the industry’s voice is being heard in the corridors of power.

The American Dental Association’s 2016 Washington Leadership Conference wraps up today. The event’s keynote speaker was Fox News personality Tucker Carlson.

Among the issues discussed by the state dental delegations were a trio of bills the ADA has been watching closely.

The first, HR 4062, would repeal a rule that would require dentists to either enroll in or opt out of Medicare in order for their patients’ prescriptions to be covered by Medicare Part D. That mandate is schedule to go into effect in February unless Congress acts to stop it.

According to the ADA, the mandate would force dentists to officially opt in or out of Medicare Part B, even if they don’t receive reimbursements from the program. Neither option is good, according to a February letter from the ADA and other members of a coalition urging the repeal of the mandate.

“By enrolling, dentists agree to the rules, regulations, and guidelines of Medicare and must open their practices up to the government for audits, while not taking reimbursements from the program. On the other hand, dentists who elect to opt out of Medicare forfeit their ability to participate in Medicare Advantage plans,” the coalition wrote.

“In short, under the current CMS rule, there are no good options for dentists and their patients.”

The ADA notes that if a majority of providers opt out, seniors could have difficulty accessing dental care. That’s likely the reason HR 4062’s official name is the “Protecting Seniors’ Access to Care Act.”

Next on the ADA’s policy agenda is HR 3323. This bill would prohibit dental and vision insurers from adding “non-covered services” clauses to their coverage agreements. The clauses give insurers control over the rates doctors charge even for services the insurers don’t cover. Such clauses are already limited by regulations in 39 states. This bill would apply only to plans regulated by the federal government.

The bill also contains a number of smaller provisions, such as limiting network contract lengths to two years and giving dentists the ability to use whichever lab they want.

Finally, the ADA is pushing passage of HR 649, the “Student Loan Refinancing Act.” The bill would allow individuals to refinance their student loans more than once. The post-refinancing interest rates would then be fixed for the life of the loan (unless the borrower chooses to refinance again).

The matter is of particular importance for dentists. According to the ADA, the average graduating dental school senior in 2014 had student debt of $220,000.