With the election of Donald Trump as president, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, will likely be repealed and replaced. This process will be complex and may be difficult to achieve. The hope is that any new law will be superior to the existing one, with improved access to health care and lower costs to consumers. One aspect of the ACA that should be eliminated is the funding for mid-level dental providers who hurt the dental profession and put patients at risk.
Mid-level providers have about two years of training, while a dentist has at least eight years. Still, under existing law, a mid-level provider can do many of the things a licensed dentist can do, including administering local anesthesia and nitrous oxide, fillings, removing the nerve of primary teeth, pulp capping, extracting primary teeth, and simple extractions. They can also write prescriptions for antibiotics and non-narcotic pain medications. Although most mid-level providers work under the supervision of a licensed dentist, in Alaska, they can treat patients without a dentist on site.
According to section EC. 5304 of the ACA passed into law in 2010, 15 multi-million dollar grants are being made available to fund programs to train or employ mid-level providers. This funding needs to be eliminated in any new health care law. Recently, I reached out to Idaho congressman Mike Simpson, who is also a dentist, and raised my concerns with this section of the ACA. Here is his response:
“Congressman Simpson has concerns with allowing mid-level providers to do surgical and irreversible procedures,” said spokesperson Nikki Wallace. “Proper training and education lead to better results, and that is particularly important in permanent procedures.”
In my view, treatment provided by those with insufficient education and training is unethical and wrong. It is an irresponsible approach to treating the poor, underserved, or uninsured.
Dr. Jerry Gordon can be reached at (215) 639-0571. Comments, questions, and second opinions are available at The Dental Comfort Zone, 2734 Street Rd. Bensalem, PA 19020 (across from the Giant supermarket).