HOUSE SPONSORS PRESS RELEASE
Representatives Flynn, Raney, and S. Thompson introduce
Oral Health Access Bill to Provide Needed Care, Jobs
AUSTIN, Texas – Late yesterday, Reps. Dan Flynn (R-Canton), John Raney (R-Bryan) and Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) introduced legislation to improve access to dental care, create middle-class jobs and reduce health costs for Texas families and seniors. This effort has the backing of more than two dozen health, business and policy organizations.
Thousands of Texans suffer from poor oral health because they cannot find affordable dental care. Last year, fifty-eight percent of Texas counties had a dental provider shortage and the state ranked 47th nationally in the number of dentists needed to close this provider gap. This lack of dental care access hits seniors especially hard. One in five Texas seniors has lost all their teeth and seniors on Medicare spend an average of $672 a year in out-of-pocket dental services. Approximately 400,000 Texas seniors are on Medicaid, and yet one in three Texas counties have no dentist serving Medicaid patients.
HB 1940/SB 787 will close these gaps by enabling dental hygienists to advance their careers and build upon their preventive scope of practice through an additional two years education and training to become licensed Dental Hygiene Practitioners (DHP). DHPs will be trained to provide routine preventive and restorative care under the supervision of a dentist. Telehealth technology will enable DHPs to deliver care to patients in community settings, especially seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers and veterans receiving care in local clinics.
“As a conservative member of the Texas legislature I am always looking for commonsense solutions to our growing state’s problems. HB 1940 addresses those issues by increasing access to needed dental care, it doesn’t cost the state a dime and provides more options for the consumer which is a win-win for Texas and it’s residents.” said Representative Raney.
“The reality for some Texas seniors – many of them veterans – is that they are forced to travel to a neighboring county or spend hours in an emergency room for preventable dental care,” said Rep. Dan Flynn, the bill’s lead House Republican sponsor and longtime advocate for veterans. “Our seniors deserve better and our veterans deserve better. This is a free-market solution that creates jobs and improves access for those who need it most. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
“Anyone who doubts Texas has an oral health access problem should talk to my sister Carolyn,” said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the bill’s lead House Democratic sponsor whose sister lives in an assisted living facility. “Medicare doesn’t cover routine dental care and so few dentists accept Medicaid, so she and her friends either pay out-of-pocket or go years without a dental visit. Our seniors have enough to worry about – let’s stop making it impossible for them to find affordable dental care.”
Companion legislation was also introduced in the Senate yesterday by Sens. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) and José Rodríguez (D-El Paso). The legislation is backed by a diverse group of organizations who form the Texas Dental Access Coalition, including the Texas Association of Business, Texas Dental Hygienists Association, the Texas Hospital Association, The Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Action for Healthy Kids, Texas Impact, The ARC of Texas, Texas Dental Hygiene Educators Association, AARP, Career Colleges and Schools of Texas, Children at Risk, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, CPPP, H.A.N.D., The Silver Haired Legislature, Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, and the Texas Association of Adult Day Care Centers.