CDA asks for transparency on dental board's finances

The Assembly and Senate Committees on Business and Professions recently held a “sunset review” hearing for a variety of professional licensing boards, including the Dental Board of California. At the hearing, CDA acknowledged the board’s recent fee audit and, given recent increases in licensure renewal fees, urged the board to establish a structurally sound budget and a clear and evidenced-based process for future licensure fee increases.

CDA commented on several items during the hearing, including concerns regarding the rising costs of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ new system for licensing, known as BrEZe, the board’s budget transparency and exempting dental care provided to spouses or equivalent domestic partners from the definition of professional misconduct.

The BrEZe project has been under fire recently because of significant budget overruns and a delayed timeline for launch. Legislators at the meeting were looking for accountability from the Department of Consumer Affairs on poor project planning and skyrocketing system costs, and sought assurances that the culture that allowed this level of mismanagement has changed.

At the hearing, CDA expressed concern about the mishandling of the BrEZe project and strongly urged the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Legislature to work to find a solution to funding and finishing this project that does not pass the costs onto licensees, especially in the wake of the recent dental licensure renewal fee increases.

In 2014, with the fee increases pending, CDA urged the board to conduct an in-depth audit that examined, in detail, how much of the board’s budget is spent on each board function. A draft of the recently completed audit revealed that the board spends significantly more on enforcement than for all other functions and predicted the board will run a $4.3 million deficit this fiscal year.

The audit made several recommendations, including that the board create a structural budget, set a reserve target and policies on its use, develop value-based cost-recovery policies, regularly and incrementally update its fees, and repeat this type of analysis every four to five years.

Another item included in the sunset review at CDA’s urging is the addition of statutory language to exempt dental treatment of a spouse or domestic partner from the definition of sexual misconduct. Noting that the Legislature has provided this type of exemption for physicians and surgeons for more than 20 years, CDA expressed appreciation at the hearing for the committee’s recommendation to consider extending the misconduct exemption to dentists, and indicated the organization looks forward to working with the board and the Legislature to accomplish that this year.

The Dental Board of California was created by the California Legislature in 1885, and was originally established to regulate dentists. Today, the board, whose primary responsibility is protection of the public, is composed of 15 members, including eight practicing dentists, one registered dental hygienist, one registered dental assistant and five public members. It is responsible for regulating the practice of approximately 86,000 licensed dental health care professionals in California, including but not limited to approximately: 40,163 dentists, 44,230 registered dental assistants and 1,545 registered dental assistants in extended functions. In addition, the dental board is responsible for setting the duties and functions of approximately 50,000 unlicensed dental assistants. The board, as a whole, meets at least four times throughout the year to address work completed by the various committees.

Every four years, the board goes through a sunset review process to prove to the Legislature that it is functioning properly – budgeting, staffing, customer satisfaction and the enforcement program are all part of the report and process. 

CDA will keep members updated on this process in the Update and on cda.org.