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Policy Priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session

The 2019 legislative is underway in Richmond. The Coalition staff is excited about several bills put forward to improve access to oral health care. Be sure to join us on January 30 for our Legislative Action Day and share your support for three bills we're watching closely:

  • Study on Emergency Room Dental Visits (Item 281 #1s, Barker): Senator George Barker is sponsoring a budget amendment that, if included in the final budget, will create a workgroup facilitated by VaOHC to quantify the use of the emergency department for dental issues in Virginia hospitals. Thanks to the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association for joining us in support of this amendment. The American Dental Association has done similar studies, finding that nearly 80% of dental emergency department visits could have been treated in a community setting, based on the Virginia-specific data, VaOHC will offer recommendations to meet patient needs and improve costs for the state (like adding a comprehensive dental benefit for all adult enrolled in Medicaid).
  • Community Health Worker Certification (HB 2004, Aird): Community Health Workers are a trusted liaison between community members they serve and the health care system and other vital support services. Over the past several years, stakeholders have been working collaboratively to develop a certification program for Community Health Workers to ensure consistency and quality among the profession. This legislation will authorize the VDH to designate an agency or organization to become the certifying body for Community Health Workers.
  • Remote Supervision for Dental Hygienists (HB 1849, Adams, D.M.): Currently, in Virginia, dental hygienists employed by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) can work under a remote supervision protocol that was created especially for public health hygienists (hygienists who are not employed by the VDH may also work under remote supervision in community setting but the protocol is slightly different). Through this legislation, hygienists employed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services would be able to work under an identical protocol as VDH hygienists.

Federal Legislation:

  • Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019: Earlier this month Maryland's Senator Ben Cardin introduced legislation that, if enacted, will add a dental benefit into Medicare Part B. As a federal program, Medicare provides medical coverage and pharmacy services to older Americans and people with disabilities, but does not cover dental services for the millions of Americans it serves. This legislation will ensure everyone has access to the comprehensive care they need.