Legislative issues heat up as General Assembly goes on summer break

A flurry of legislative activities occurred on dental-related bills in the first half of the year as the General Assembly prepared for its summer break, heading into the fall elections.

Non-covered services

On April 5, the Ohio Senate Insurance Committee held a hearing for opponent testimony regarding House Bill 95, which is supported by the ODA and would prohibit dental insurance companies from being able to dictate the fees that dentists charge for services that the insurer does not even cover.

Representatives from Delta Dental of Ohio, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Association of Health Plans, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, National Association of Dental Plans and Ohio Chamber of Commerce testified against House Bill 95. The representative from Delta Dental testified that House Bill 95 amounts to “government intrusion into a private contract voluntarily entered into by two willing parties” and that passage of the legislation would “result in a higher cost of dental care for Ohioans.”

House Bill 95 was introduced in 2015 and passed out of the Ohio House of Representatives by a 61-33 vote. In November, ODA Vice President Dr. Steve Moore, who is a general dentist in West Chester, testified before the Ohio Senate Insurance Committee providing specific examples of how the insurance companies’ non-covered services requirements interfere with the dentist-patient relationship. ODA Executive Director David Owsiany also testified, arguing that House Bill 95 protects small business dental offices from unfair insurance company tactics that interfere with dentists and their patients on services that the insurers do not even cover.

Dental therapists

On May 17, Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) introduced legislation that would create a new dental provider in Ohio. Senate Bill 330 would authorize a “dental therapist” to practice in Ohio after receiving just three years of training after high school. This new provider would have a broad scope of practice, including diagnosis, treatment planning, scaling, irreversible surgical dental procedures, including restorations and extractions, and supervising dental assistants, EFDAs and dental hygienists.

Upon introduction of Senate Bill 330, ODA President Dr. Chris Connell, who is a general dentist from Lyndhurst, announced the ODA’s opposition to the bill stating that “allowing undertrained individuals to perform irreversible surgical procedures would be detrimental to the oral health of Ohioans and would be an unnecessary distraction from the progress being made in addressing the critical issue of access to dental care in Ohio.” Senate Bill 330 has been assigned to the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, which expects to hold hearings on Senate Bill 330 later this year.

Terminal distributor license

On April 25, Sen. John Eklund (R-Munson Township) introduced legislation as part of the governor’s initiative to combat opiate abuse. Senate Bill 319 will, among other things, require any health care professionals, including dentists, physicians and veterinarians, who possess Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V drugs in their offices to have a terminal distributor of dangerous drugs license from the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. This new initiative is designed to ensure that all locations that have controlled substances are regulated by the pharmacy board.

On May 24, Owsiany testified on behalf of the ODA before the Ohio Senate Health and Human Services Committee arguing that while the ODA supports reasonable regulation of dangerous drugs especially in light of the burgeoning opiate abuse crisis, the ODA prefers such regulation be handled by the Ohio State Dental Board, which already regulates the practice of dentistry.

Representatives from the Ohio Pharmacy Board testified that the Ohio State Dental Board’s regulation of dangerous drugs in dental offices has been inadequate, noting that the dental board does not sufficiently regulate the “security, control and recordkeeping of controlled substance medications” or conduct regular inspections of dental offices. Senate Bill 319 passed the Ohio Senate by a 33-0 vote and is currently pending in the Ohio House of Representatives.

The General Assembly expects to reconvene in September. Keep an eye on the “ODA Today” for updates on these important legislative issues.