The Florida Dental Association (FDA) is advocating for several bills and initiatives that aim to help improve needed dental services and reimbursements for dentists.
FDA President Dr. Beatriz Terry discussed the association’s legislative priorities with State of Reform, which include Senate Bill 892 and its counterpart in the House, HB 1219. SB 892 would prohibit a contract between a health insurer and a dentist from containing certain restrictions on payment methods. Terry said some dentists have faced problems in acquiring payments after performing services.
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“This is to ensure our patients get the dental benefits they’re paying for,” Terry said. “Right now there’s an issue with prior authorization. They get turned down for payment after the procedure is done.”
SB 892 would also prohibit a health insurer from charging a fee to transmit a payment to a dentist through an Automated Clearing House transfer unless the dentist has consented to the fee. It would also prohibit a contract between a prepaid limited health service organization and a dentist from containing certain restrictions on payment methods, and prohibit a prepaid limited health service organization from denying claims for procedures in a prior authorization.
FDA also supports increased funding for dental services in Florida’s Medicaid program. Florida currently ranks as one of the lowest in the country for Medicaid program funding. The legislature’s Live Healthy package—which was passed in the Senate and is currently in the House—includes an additional $35 million for Florida’s Medicaid dental program, which both the House and Senate have recommended. Medicaid dental program funding hasn’t increased since 2011.
“We lack providers because the compensation is so low, and administrative costs associated with treating these patients is high, so we’re very much supporting this increase in Medicaid payments.”— Terry
The association is seeking funding for the implementation of Florida’s Veterans Dental Care Grant Program, which was passed into statute last year. The legislature found that veterans are not afforded dental care after serving in the U.S. military unless they are totally and permanently disabled or have a direct service-connected injury impacting their oral health. Funding for the program would help charitable organizations and clinics across the state provide critical oral healthcare services and treatment to veterans at no cost.
“What many people don’t know is that veterans don’t get dental benefits unless they have an injury to the mouth or are disabled,” Terry said. “This gives them additional funds. We were successful in getting that program passed last year, and this year we’re trying to get the funding ($3 million) for it.”
FDA is also seeking funding to support the Florida Mission of Mercy program, an annual two-day dental clinic hosted by the FDA Foundation to help thousands of Floridians get critical dental care and relief from dental pain. The event is held in a different city each year—previous events have been held in Tampa, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Fort Myers, Orlando, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach—and has provided more than 13,000 patients with donated dental care valued at more than $13.5 million. It will be held in Lakeland this year, Terry said.
“In the past we had help with legislation approved for $500,000 to support it. So we’re hoping to get it for 2025 as well. We think $500,000 would be helpful for us to continue it. Professionals volunteer their time, and it’s a really big deal. Patients also get a goodie bag with oral health education and information on local dental care resources when they leave.”— Terry
SB 302 and its counterpart HB 855 would increase patient protections for direct-to-consumer dentistry. The bills would require every dentist—and certain individuals, partnerships, corporations, and other entities—to provide specified information to certain patients. It would also require a dentist to remain primarily responsible for all dental treatments for a patient treated through telehealth.
“We’re hoping the legislature will pass that, which would make it mandatory to provide a dentist of record for a patient to contact,” Terry said.
Terry said the bills would also help promote more recommendations of X-rays for certain patients prior to seeing a dentist, which could help prevent major dental problems.
FDA opposes SB 1254 and its counterpart HB 1173, which would create a new licensed dental provider position called a dental therapist. Unlike the extensive training required to be a dentist, dental therapists are educated for at least three years out of high school and would be authorized to perform surgery or major irreversible procedures like extractions, partial root canals, and administer local anesthesia. FDA believes its dental student loan repayment program provides sufficient resources for rural initiatives, however.
“The FDA does not support this proposal, as it will not provide immediate care and relief for patients and communities in need,” Terry said. “We were successful in implementing the student loan repayment program and getting funding for it. The program is going to pay back loans for those who go to underserved areas. We think that by providing this opportunity to them, we will have the manpower to provide services to these areas, and we don’t need a mid-level dentist to do that. So we’re against both of those.”