We are now almost a week into the state government shutdown. As of today, the Governor and Republicans are still $1.4 billion apart in their negotiations to solve the $5 billion state budget shortfall and neither side appears to be budging. We have had many calls from members wondering about the continued implications to organized dentistry and want to reiterate a number of points as well as share some updates.
The MDA remains strongly committed in every way possible to seek a quick resolution to the shutdown and explain to decision makers involved in the negotiations the need for full funding of dental related issues.
Last week, Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled that core, essential functions of state government are to remain functional and funded throughout the shutdown and terminating them would be unconstitutional.
A dental specific message was sent from DHS that was emailed and posted on the DHS website following Judge Gearin's order. The bottom line is that dental services will continue to be covered for children and pregnant women on a comprehensive (medically necessary) basis and that adult care will also continue to be covered for the limited benefit set that was passed by the legislature a couple of years ago. To repeat, the Gearin ruling means all dental care previously covered will continue to be covered and paid, albeit a bit late.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services has more information available on their website:
As a result of the shutdown, the Board of Dentistry is currently closed until the budget issues are resolved. This means that the BOD staff have been laid off and no longer have access to email, voicemail or the Board’s website. It also means that all meetings and activities have been put on hold.
Of highest importance to the profession is that licenses cannot be renewed and new licenses will not be issued. If your July license renewal was not completed by June 30, you may end up practicing without a license. At this time it is unclear how practicing without a license due to a shutdown would be handled; however, the Board normally allows a 60-day grace period for you to complete the renewal process if your license expires.
If you maintain a certificate for moderate sedation or general anesthesia and your certificate is up for renewal in July, the same rule of thumb applies. If your sedation certificate expires, you have a 60-day grace period to complete the application process; however, you may not administer general anesthesia, deep sedation, or moderate sedation until the Board issues the appropriate certificate to you. See rules of the Board of Dentistry 3100.3600, Subparts 9 and 9a for more details regarding certification for general sedation and moderate sedation.
Under the state shutdown, the State Operated Services dental clinics have been closed. The rationale used in closing the SOS dental clinics was that they are outpatient clinics and only inpatient care is being covered under Judge Gearin's ruling. The five clinics that are closed under the shutdown are in Fergus Falls, Brainerd, Willmar, Faribault, and Cambridge. There are two dentists who were identified as critical and were not laid off, but neither works in an SOS dental clinic; they both work in regional treatment centers in specialized areas.
While the state has cut off funding for the Donated Dental Services Program, the lead national organization, Dental Lifeline Network out of Colorado, has agreed to continue funding the program for a period of time yet to be determined and based on the length of the shutdown. This is due in part to a grant they recently received from the MDA’s Dental Foundation. The DDS Program matches patients who meet eligibility criteria with dentists who volunteer free care and dental labs who donate lab services for care of the patient.
A notice recently went out regarding the X-Ray unit at the Minnesota Department of Health stating that on-site inspections will not be conducted during the shutdown. If you are up for your annual inspection you will not be greatly impacted and things can carry on as usual. If you are installing new equipment, you will have to wait for the state shutdown to end.