Legislative Committee Update
Legislators returned to St. Paul today after a five-day Easter break that officially started last Thursday. This week marks the official end to committees meeting, as the third committee deadline is this Friday, March 28, 2008. Most of the activity beginning March 31 will reside on the House and Senate floors. The legislature is supposed to end on May 19, 2008.
Included in their work priorities is balancing the budget. There is a constitutional requirement that legislators and the Governor must abide by, which says they must solve the current biennial deficit, which is close to a billion dollars. Other omnibus and appropriations bills will be addressed as well over the next six weeks.
As for the MDA, our dental access bill is still moving. As you may recall, the MDA introduced a bill to address dental access, which was introduced earlier in the session by Rep. Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids) in the House and by Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville) in the Senate. HF3254/SF3122 is a bill that proposes several things: 1) The bill as introduced would create a uniform public dental program model statewide, whereby dental programs would actually be carved-out of the existing PMAP system. Currently, the Minnesota Department of Human Services uses nine different managed care plans each with their own rules. This is inefficient for dentists and does not provide the best care for our patients. Several other states have successfully accomplished creating this single-administrator model, and in the process have increased the number of dentists who participate in taking on public patients and helping with the dental access problem; 2) The bill proposes to expand and revise the dentist loan forgiveness program and provide scholarships for those who focus on treating the underserved. In the Senate, the loan forgiveness and scholarship provisions have been added to another health care bill to give them an additional possible pathway to passage; and 3) The House bill creates a study in which the Department of Health would study the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC).
This bill has passed all the necessary policy committees in both the House and Senate. We’re still waiting to see whether our language will make it into the final finance bills. The carve-out proposal that is in the bill raised considerable concerns by a number of legislators about its implementation. Thus, “study” language was included in the House bill only.
MDA Executive Director Dick Diercks testified last week before Sen. Linda Berglin’s Senate Health & Human Services Budget Division strongly objecting to the Governor using the Health Care Access Fund to balance the state’s general fund budget.
In a March 7, 2008 press release, the Governor stated that as part of his plan to solve the state’s projected $935 million deficit he would reduce state spending by $341 million, use $250 million of the $653 million budget reserve, and use $250 million from the surplus in the Health Care Access Fund.
The Health Care Access Fund (HCAF) is one of the state’s 32 special revenue funds. Specifically, the HCAF receives its revenues from 1) provider taxes (including hospitals, surgical centers and other health care providers); 2) premiums on behalf of MinnesotaCare enrollees; and 3) to a lesser extent, other funds. This self-supporting fund was established in 1992 and was created to help manage the MinnesotaCare program, the program to provide low-cost health care to Minnesotans and to promote certain activities related to health care access through five state agencies and the University of Minnesota.
In his opposing remarks, Diercks made expressly clear that when patients and the health care providers are taxed for the general obligations of the state, such patients are unfairly taxed and burdened and the original promise of the program is broken. He also testified that dentists are often unable to pass the cost of the tax to the third-party payer, as originally intended. And, because dentists are displeased with the way in which the tax works, they particularly resent it when the tax is not used for its intended health care purposes, and, instead used to balance the budget.
Diercks drove home the point that these dollars are critically needed for expansion of the Critical Access Dental Provider Program and other programs that can help to pay for the oral health care services that so many people in the state desperately need through the state’s public health care programs.
One dentist and one new public member were recently appointed to the Board of Dentistry by Governor Pawlenty. Dr. David Linde of Prior Lake is a general dentist with over 30 years of practice experience. He currently practices with Smiles of Distinction in Savage. He is a member of a number of professional associations including the MDA, Academy of General Dentistry, and the American Association of Cosmetic Dentistry. Linde obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Macalester College and his doctor of dental surgery degree from the University of Minnesota. He is the past president of the Minnesota Academy of General Dentistry, Savage Chamber of Commerce, and Savage Jaycees.
The second appointment was a public member, Susan Osman. Osman, of Minnetonka, left the Minnesota Attorney General's Office in 1999 after 22 years as an investigator. She began her law enforcement career with the Minnetonka Police Department where she was the first female patrol officer in the State of Minnesota. Osman received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota. Linde and Osman both will serve a four-year term that will expire in 2012. Dr. Linde replaces Dr. Dean Singsank on the board, while Osman replaces Marguerite Rheinberger.
Note: Due to daily changes occurring at the Legislature, information provided in this newsletter is current only at the time of delivery.
about the ADHP bill and the MDA’s dental access legislation can be found at the MDA web site with current status of bills, sample letters for legislators and the media, and other helpful resources.
Visit the NEW Dental Access Coalition web site.
April 10-12: Star of the North Meeting (St. Paul RiverCentre)
April 17: Minneapolis District Annual Installation of Officers & Guest of Honor Event (Golden Valley Country Club)
April 19: St. Paul District Planning Retreat (MN Humanities Center)
May 7: Northeastern District Annual Business Meeting (Kitchi Gammi Club, Duluth)
May 9: St. Paul District Annual Installation of Officers Event (Town & Country Club)