MDA getting ready for 2017 Legislative Session

While the 2017 Montana Legislature won’t convene until January 9, the MDA is already gearing up for what could be a major session for dentistry and health care. MDA has adopted a proactive strategy in past sessions and bills are now being prepared, MoDePAC is making contributions to legislative candidates and plans are being made for your participation in grassroots lobbying and the MDA Dental Day at the Legislature on MDA Dental Day at the Legislature on January 27.

 MDA will sponsor legislation that requires third-party reimbursement for services delivered by tele-dentistry. MDA’s continues to play the leadership role with legislation in 2015 to reform Medicaid overpayment audits. The Government Affairs Committee (GAC) is also researching legislation on other issues, including general supervision for some dental assistant functions, mandating third-party coverage for anesthesia services for dental treatment in hospital ORs, oral health in nursing homes, school oral health screenings, and funding for dental education. GAC is monitoring legislative proposals from others, including increased oversight of professional licensing boards, scope of practice for non-dentists, and the state budget. The MDA Board has postponed action on legislation to authorize expanded function dental auxiliaries, pending further exploration of this concept with members.

 Here is a summary of MDA’s evolving legislative agenda.

Telemedicine is allowed by Montana law and third-party payers must reimburse providers for covered services delivered remotely through telemedicine. This law applies to most healthcare professionals including physicians, pharmacists, and podiatrists, but does not apply to dentists. MDA will sponsor a bill to add dentists to the telemedicine statute.

 MDA’s Medicaid overpayment audit bill overwhelming passed the Legislature, then was vetoed by the Governor, and ended up as the foundation for possible DPHHS rules that will be unveiled by the department the summer. Following the session, MDA has been in negotiation with DPHHS to achieve the key provider objectives contained in House Bill 237, including the role of clinical peers in reviewing audit outcomes, record request and timeline limits, and restrictions on the use of extrapolation in determining overpayments.

 Dentists may delegate functions to dental assistants only under direct supervision. MDA is exploring legislation to allow general supervision for some tasks. This would require legislators to amend dental practice statutes. Scope of practice changes may be proposed by others regulated by the Board of Dentistry.

Legislators on the Economic Affairs Interim Committee have been reviewing a bill that would increase oversight over licensing boards by the Department of Business and Industry in response to a recent US Supreme Court case that requires more active supervision by states over their professional regulatory boards. The Court upheld the Federal Trade Commission’s ruling against the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners that found the board’s teeth-whitening regulations were anticompetitive. Similar questions are being raised in Montana. The Denturists Association of Montana sued the Montana Board of Dentistry in 2014, alleging its rule prohibiting denturists from placing dentures over implants is illegal restraint of trade. In May the Montana Supreme Court returned the appealed lawsuit to District Court, where the denturists lost its case and directed it to rule on that question.

MDA’s legislative agenda will be shepherded by members of the Government Affairs Committee, including chair Dr. Kurt Lindemann, and Drs. Jane Gillette, David Keim, Kevin Rencher, Doug Hadnot, Kevin Miltko and Macy Hyvonen. For further information, contact David Hemion, Executive Director (800) 257-4988 dave [AT] montanadental [DOT] org