While the states have grappled with implementing a wide range of federal health care mandates, questions about rising costs the next steps in health care reform have lingered in Washington. Fortunately, states don’t have to wait to act.
In what has been called a “big idea” for social change, a new category of mid-level dental practitioners known as “dental therapists” may hold the key for providing dental services in underserved and rural populations. Like hygienists, dental therapists work under the supervision of dentists with collaborative agreements that allow them to provide an expanded list of services to patients. Governor Paul LePage and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, both Republicans, already signed legislation permitting the creation of these mid-level practitioners in Maine and Minnesota.
Americans for Tax Reform supports this bold type of dental care reform because it, at no cost to taxpayers, stands to expand health care to underserved populations in the United States.
Two bills in Texas would tear down an unnecessary barrier created by protectionist government rules by permitting small business to hire trained “Dental Hygiene Practitioners” to aid in their dental practices. ATR president Grover Norquist recently sent a letter to members of the Texas House, Senate, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in support of Senate Bill 787 and House Bill 1940.
As Grover Norquist notes,
“Dentists who want to expand their practices to include educated and qualified mid-level practitioners should be free to do so. Innovative ideas like this have faced intense opposition but are very similar to the fights that took place decades ago with the emergence of nurse practitioners. Physicians began working and collaborating with nurses who had clinical experience to fill a void left by specialization in the medical field. Today, nurse practitioners provide equivalent or superior care to that provided by physicians. SB 787 and HB 1940 responsibly follow the nurse practitioner model for dental practices.”
This is a free market health care solution that utilizes the desire and qualifications of trained professionals to provide much needed dental care to underserved populations without raising costs on taxpayers. It would be irresponsible for the state to stand in the way.