02:29am Monday 25 May 2020

Congress Passes Sweeping Health Reform Containing Significant Oral Health Provisions

The 219-212 House vote for passage of H.R. 3950, the health reform bill, already passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve, closely followed party lines with only Democrats voting in favor of the measure.  The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature in order to become law, which is anticipated as early as Tuesday, the 24th.  Just minutes after the vote was taken on H.R. 3590 another vote to pass a reconciliation bill, H.R. 4872, was passed by the House to amend some of the provisions contained within the health reform package.  The Senate is expected to vote on the reconciliation bill later this week.

ADHA has been involved in the national dialogue on health reform for more than a year, as legislation has been drafted and debated.  The association has not taken a position for or against health reform, but has been guided by ADHA’ Statement on Health Reform which asserts that if Congress undertakes comprehensive health reform, oral health provisions should be included as oral health is a vital component to individuals’ total health.

ADHA President Lynn Ramer, LDH reflected, “As a national stakeholder in oral health, ADHA has a responsibility to be engaged in the health reform debate as these issues significantly impact the oral health care delivery system and dental hygienists throughout the country.  For more than a year, ADHA has advocated for the dental hygiene profession and the patients we serve by highlighting the important role dental hygienists play in the delivery of oral health care.”

HR. 3590 contains a number of oral health provisions including a mandatory oral health benefit for children (up to age 21) as part of any essential benefits package offered through health insurance exchanges called for in the bill.  The legislation also recognizes dental hygienists as primary oral health providers through the inclusion of dental hygiene providers, students, and education programs as eligible entities for workforce development funds.  Additionally, the legislation provides for 15 demonstration grants to train or employ alternative dental health care providers to evaluate emerging workforce models that improve access to oral health care.  Public health dental hygienists, independent dental hygienists, advanced practice dental hygienists, and dental therapist models are listed models eligible for the grants.

A list of additional oral health provisions in health reform and their impact on dental hygiene is available on ADHA’s Key Oral Health Provisions in Health Reform Legislation Chart.

Efforts related to health reform do not end with the passage of H.R. 3590.  As noted, the Senate is expected to take up the reconciliation bill later this week to provide some immediate amendments to the bill.  None of the oral health provisions contained in H.R. 3590 are impacted the reconciliation package.  Additional amending legislation will likely be introduced in the future and the implementation of health reform policies will be a long-term effort.

ADHA will continue to stay engaged in health reform and advocate on behalf of the profession as directed by ADHA policies and the Statement on Health Reform.

ADHA is the largest national organization representing the professional interests of more than 150,000 dental hygienists across the country. Dental hygienists are preventive oral health professionals, licensed in dental hygiene, who provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services that support total health through the promotion of optimal oral health. For more information about ADHA, dental hygiene or the link between oral health and general health, visit ADHA at http://www.adha.org.


Nick Olsen, ADHA 312/440-8927
[email protected]

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