NYSDA scored significant early victories in the newly enacted State Budget for 2014-2015. One critical victory was maintenance of adult dental Medicaid coverage with no reductions in reimbursements for dental services. That is a constant battle every budget cycle now due to relentless pressure from local government lobbyists to cut the costs of this program. But the Governor and the Legislature have demonstrated their support for dentistry by maintaining the best adult dental Medicaid program in the country for New Yorkers.
Equally important was the New York State Department of Health announcement on March 26 that dentists would be reimbursed under Medicaid for smoking cessation services effective April 1. After two years of NYSDA pressing for this, the Department of Health was finally able to come up with the total $3 million to fund this important service for patients. While the coding and technical reimbursement mechanisms are still being developed, the commitment to fund smoking cessation services by dentists has finally come to fruition. In addition, NYSDA has been asked to help develop the guidelines for providing this service Not only was this the result of continual hard work by NYSDA, it also shows that the Governor and Department of Health honor their commitments to the profession of dentistry and to the patients and public that dentists serve every day. Members should stay tuned for further details on this from the NYSDA Health Affairs Department.
Another item of critical importance in the State Budget was creation of a new mobile dental pilot program in three counties in Western New York (Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua) in conjunction with the University at Buffalo School of Dentistry. NYSDA lobbied for this program and insisted it take into account the concerns of dentists practicing in Western New York: 1) minimizing any adverse effect on existing dental practices or practices wishing to enter these areas; 2) involving existing dental practices in these areas with any mobile dental program; and 3) establishing referral systems and networks with existing dental practices in these areas for ongoing patient care. The program will be studied by UB School of Dentistry to measure its usefulness in providing dental care to underserved areas. The program represents another in a series of NYSDA public health efforts to combat the problem of lack of access to dental care in rural and underserved communities in New York. Solutions such as these that bring care by dentists directly to underserved communities make much more sense than mid-level provider models, which have not shown any real effectiveness in reaching underserved areas.
NYSDA and its Government Affairs team are always working on behalf of members. These victories early in the current legislative session demonstrate that NYSDA constantly presses to uphold and benefit the profession wherever possible. We are looking forward to more victories ahead.