The Assembly yesterday passed a bill to expand teledentistry in California.
AB 1174 by Assembly member Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) expands scope of practice for dental assistants and hygienists so they can participate in teledentistry efforts. The bill is designed to reach people in underserved areas — particularly rural areas — across the state, Bocanegra said.
“[The bill] will boost dental services in communities that currently lack these services,” Bocanegra said. “And these services will be billed through Medi-Cal.”
The bill includes language that would make teledentistry services covered under Medi-Cal.
Impetus for the bill came from a pilot project called the Health Workforce Pilot Program. Paul Glassman, director of community oral health at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry, said the pilot posted strong results.
“We’ve been developing and demonstrating this program for about five years — three of those years in action. What got us started down this road was the realization that there are so many people in our society who don’t have access to the dental care they need,” Glassman said at an Assembly Health hearing earlier this month.
“One of the solutions we have to be thinking about is getting dental care to where people are,” Glassman said. “[In this demonstration project] we’ve been able to see more than 2,000 people, and … we’ve been able to clearly demonstrate we can bring care to where these people are. We’ve been able to provide access to the most important preventive and intervention dental services and reach people who traditionally don’t get dental care until they end up in the emergency room or hospital.”
During the Jan. 14 hearing, many concerns were raised about the scope of practice expansion part of the bill.
“The concerns seem to be more on the B & P (Committee on Business and Professions) side of things,” said Assembly Health chair Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).
Bocanegra yesterday referred to those concerns on the Assembly floor.
“There are some outstanding issues and we’re working with the opposition closely. We hope we will be able resolve any outstanding issues as this moves forward,” Bocanegra said.
The measure passed on a 73-1 vote, and now heads to the Senate.
• On the Senate floor yesterday, SB 508 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) passed on a 28-8 vote. It would codify income eligibility thresholds established by the Department of Health Care Services, and now heads to the Assembly.