On April 8, Sen. Joe Uecker (R–OH) filed S.B. 327. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee for further consideration. Thus far, four senators have joined as co-sponsors of the bill. S.B 327 would expand the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program by adding dentistry to the existing list of qualifying fields. Currently the program focuses on recruiting students to study in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). However, with the passage of this bill, dentistry would be added to the list.
The Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program provides funding for state colleges and universities to develop initiatives to recruit and retain more Ohio students into STEMM fields. Specifically, the funding colleges and universities receive is used to offer scholarships to current and potential students.
Additionally, S.B. 327 doubles the current capacity of the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program (ODLRP). The ODLRP is fully funded through dentist licensing fees, and a provision in S.B. 327 increases the portion of each fee that will be allocated to the ODLRP.
The legislation increases the number of dental hygienists that can practice under the supervision of a dentist from three to four and allows dental hygienists, dental assistants and expanded function dental auxiliaries to provide certain services when the dentist is not physically present. According to the bill, a dental assistant and expanded function dental auxiliary may perform the following when the supervising dentist is not present (this list is not exhaustive): the re-cementation of temporary crowns; the application of fluoride varnish, topical fluoride and desensitizing agents; and caries susceptibility testing.
S.B. 327 also establishes a temporary workgroup to study the issue of Medicaid payment rates for dental services and requires the workgroup to submit a report to the governor and general assembly by December 31, 2014.
“There have been 84 parts of our state identified as ‘Dental Shortage Areas,’ making it difficult for Ohioans in those regions to have access to quality dental services we know are so important to overall health,” said Sen. Uecker. “What we are doing through this bill is to streamline access to dental care by addressing multiple barriers that result in the current shortage.”
A companion bill, H.B. 463, has been filed by Rep. Terry Johnson, D.O., (R-OH) and referred to the Committee on Health and Aging for consideration. H.B. 463 is co-sponsored by 26 members of the Ohio House of Representatives.