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|Effort to restrict mobile dental clinics picks up steam|
A proposal to restrict mobile dental clinics in public schools won approval Tuesday from the Louisiana House Committee on Health and Welfare.
Authored by Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, the legislation moves to the full House for consideration.
The Louisiana Dental Association is advocating that children have long-term care in a "dental home - a permanent, fixed dentist office" instead of a for-profit, mobile dental clinic.
The Federal Trade Commission also filed a comment to proposed House Bill 687, stating, "If enacted, this legislation would restrict competition to provide dental care to underserved children in the state. As drafted, the bill will prohibit the practice of most forms of in-school dentistry throughout the state."
The FTC also said if the proposed legislation becomes law, "fewer students – especially the indigent and economically disadvantaged – will receive dental care, as they may not have access to dental treatments outside of school."
If passed, the legislation would ban efforts by dentists like Lafayette's Dr. Gregg Folse, who recently provided dental service to Swayze Elementary School students.
Folse lobbied the Ouachita Parish School Board recently to expand this service to other parish schools. The school board has not acted on the matter.
The Northeast Louisiana Dental Association opposed Folse's presence at Swayze and other parish schools. The Louisiana Dental Association also opposes mobile dental clinics in schools.
Dr. Marty B. Garrett, immediate past president of LDA said, "Today's vote is a vote for our state's children. All children deserve the highest quality, ongoing, comprehensive dental care throughout their childhood and regardless of their economic means. That care is received in a dentist's office, not a transient, in-school clinic. Louisiana has a better way to provide dental care to Medicaid-eligible school children. It is wise, it is well formulated, and it will work if we are allowed to proceed as we have laid out in our plans."
According to Garrett, many dentists believe mobile dental clinics eliminate parents' rights and informed consent and threaten the "decade-long effort of the dental profession to provide comprehensive oral health care throughout the state."
"In many cases, exams and treatments, including invasive treatments, have been administered in gymnasiums and other school facilities that lacked privacy and proper equipment," Garrett explained. "These in-school locations present substantial impediments to proper infection control. In some cases, school systems and administrators were unaware that individual schools were undertaking these in-school dental relationships, which obviously could have legal and insurance liability impacts on the entire school district."
The Ouachita Parish School Board was unaware Folse was providing services to Swayze Elementary students at the time.
Swayze principal Marquita Bowman agreed to have Folse come to her school to provide dental care to any student whose parents wanted the treatment for their children. She told the school board she believed Folse was providing a service that benefited her students since many of the children had not been receiving dental care.
Garrett said for-profit, in-school dentists began contacting public schools and school systems throughout Louisiana in late 2008 to promote for-profit, in-school dentistry for Medicaid-eligible children.
He said Louisiana dentists have launched a four-step "dental home plan" for public school students that will be completed in two years.
The first step entails the LDA distributing a comprehensive list of Medicaid dental providers to parents and guardians of all eligible students with instructions that all students must be scheduled for a dental examination and/or treatment by a designated date.
The second step includes setting benchmarks during the 2009-10 school year to ensure parents and guardians take the steps to have their children examined and treated in the "dental home" environment with Medicaid funding assistance.
The third and fourth steps target children whose parents cannot or will not take them to a private dental office. This program will involve specific consent from the parent or guardian, as well as medical history forms, transportation assistance from schools to private offices and additional follow-up for treatment and long-term care, Garrett said.