As we head into the summer months, there are pending bills currently in legislative sessions throughout the northeast. The primary topics are Teledentistry (Telehealth), Mid-Level Providers (Dental Therapists), and Assignment of Benefits (AOB). These three topics will have a dramatic effect on private orthodontic practices.
Teledentistry showed a sizable increase in utilization during the pandemic but has slowed down considerably since the introduction of vaccines and the opening of the country to a new normal. However, direct-to-consumer orthodontic platforms have increased their support of teledentistry in order to continue their disruption of the orthodontic industry. While many teledentistry bills include oral health, none of the bills called for an in-person examination with a dentist at either the initiation or during dental treatment. There is no need to expand access to orthodontic care with teledentistry laws that exclude an in-person examination by an orthodontist or dentist. These teledentistry laws, if passed, will only allow direct-to-consumer orthodontic platforms to provide orthodontic services directly to the public. Please contact your state representative and senator to educate them on the importance of in-person examinations with the initiation of orthodontic treatment.
Dental Therapists in dental/orthodontic practices could lead to a number of disruptions to the industry. From the independent practice of “simple” orthodontic procedures by dental therapists to the expansion of orthodontic treatment by non-orthodontists, advocacy efforts must be directed to the bills that would lead to the implementation of dental therapists in the region. Please consult your specific state legislative agenda for any mid-level provider/dental therapist bills and know what is being passed and how this could affect your orthodontic practice.
The Assignment of Benefits provision allows for orthodontic parents/patients to direct their insurance benefits provider to pay directly to dental practices. 41 out of the 50 states in the country allow for the assignment of benefits. There is a national bill before congress to pass a federal law to approve the assignment of benefits. Massachusetts is one of the 9 states that do not allow universal assignment of benefits. Please see if your state allows for the assignment of benefits and if they do not either support efforts to pass this much-needed bill or support the national efforts of a federal assignment of benefits provision and contact your representative and senators in congress.
I know I have given you a lot to think about over the coming summer months, but the laws passed by state legislatures have a direct effect on your practice and you should be aware of bills pending. If you need additional information please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or @drjefflo on Twitter. Be well and have a tremendous summer.
Jeffrey Lowenstein, DMD
NESO News Legislative Correspondent