New law protects patient premium dollars

CDA's advocacy efforts have resulted in Gov. Jerry Brown signing CDA's sponsored bill, AB 1962, along with three other CDA-supported bills.

Below is a breakdown of these legislative actions.

AB 1962 (Skinner) — Establishes standardized requirements for dental plans to disclose how they spend patient premium dollars and puts the state on a path to establish a minimum percentage of premium dollars that must be spent on patient care, as opposed to profits and overhead. Requires dental plans to uniformly and publicly disclose the financial data necessary to assess their spending on patient care, bringing dental plan reporting to the same level as currently exists for medical plans, and declares the Legislature's intent to adopt a formal minimum percentage that dental plans must spend on patient care by Jan. 1, 2018, based on the data reported. This is a major victory for our members and their patients, as AB 1962 will provide increased dental plan transparency, accountability and value.

AB 1174 (Bocanegra) — Will allow certain expanded duties (determining radiograph needs and placing protective restorations, known as interim therapeutic restorations, under the diagnosis and direction of a dentist) for registered dental hygienists, registered dental hygienists in alternative practice and registered dental assistants in extended functions in a Virtual Dental Home setting (community clinics, nursing homes, preschools, etc.) using telehealth technology. Such functions have been tested over several years as part of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development's (OSHPD) "Virtual Dental Home" Health Workforce Pilot Project, which will now continue as a permanent program. The new law will also ensure reimbursement for dental care rendered regardless of the location of the service, allowing reimbursement for dental services provided through telehealth technology. The Virtual Dental Home model is an effective way to reduce barriers to oral health care and CDA worked continuously with stakeholders to ensure AB 1174 included important provisions relating to treatment settings, supervision and education.

SB 1245 (Lieu) — Extends the Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC) in its current form for another four years without any expansion of the committee's authority or the hygiene profession's scope of practice as initially proposed by the DHCC and the California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA). The DHCC was established in 2009 under the jurisdiction of the Dental Board of California (DBC) to regulate licensure, enforcement and education of dental hygienists. State law establishes a "sunset" review process by which the California Legislature periodically conducts a formal evaluation of each state licensing body to assess its performance, determine whether it should continue and whether any changes should be made. Early in this year's DHCC sunset review process, CDA advocated against policy changes recommended by DHCC and CDHA that CDA argued were unjustified. The changes included: formally removing the committee from the DBC's jurisdiction and changing the committee to a board; eliminating the requirement that any recommendations by the DHCC for scope of practice changes be submitted to the DBC; reducing oversight of certain dental hygienist duties by moving local anesthesia, nitrous oxide and soft-tissue curettage from direct to general supervision duties; and deleting the requirement that registered dental hygienists in alternative practice (RDHAPs) obtain a dentist's prescription in order to continue providing services to new patients after 18 months. The Legislature rejected these proposals.

AB 357 (Pan) — Transfers the Healthy Families Advisory Board to the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and renames it as the Children's Health Advisory Board, in accordance with the state's transition of all children from the Healthy Families program to the Medi-Cal program. AB 357 allows this valuable and successful stakeholder advisory process to continue and the board will continue to include a dentist advocating for oral health care. The 15-member board is designed to help guide DHCS as it carries out the ongoing transitions and enhancements in the state's health care coverage programs.

For more information on CDA's advocacy efforts, visit cda.org/advocacy.