As reported in the Sept. 7 issue of Capitol Connections, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 29-2 to advance its fiscal year (FY) 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bill. Shortly thereafter, the Committee released its Committee report, which details Congressional directives to agencies as well as specific funding totals for key oral health programs.
The AGD was pleased to see that the Senate bill again prohibits funding for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) demonstration program to train or employ “alternative dental health care providers,” as authorized in section 5304 of the Affordable Care Act. The AGD was also pleased to see that the Committee recommended level funding of $36.673 million for oral health workforce programs. Within the funds provided, the Committee provided not less than $10 million each for General Dentistry programs and Pediatric Dentistry programs. The Committee also directed HRSA to provide continuation funding for predoctoral and postdoctoral training grants initially awarded in FY 2015, and for Section 748 Dental Faculty Loan Program grants initially awarded in FY 2016.
The Committee provides level funding of $18 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) oral health programs and level funding of $205 million for the CDC’s tobacco control programs.
The Committee said it was pleased that the position of Chief Dental Officer at HRSA was restored and that it looks forward to “learning how the agency has ensured that the CDO is functioning with executive level authority with resources to oversee and lead HRSA oral health programs and initiatives.” Notably, the Committee also included report language urging HRSA to convene a stakeholder meeting to address the “oral health access crisis.”
Impact on General Dentistry: There is no guarantee that the provisions found within the Senate Committee-approved bill will make it into law as the bill still needs to be approved by the full Senate, reconciled with the House bill, and then signed by the President. What is likely to happen is that selected provisions from both the House and Senate Labor-HHS funding bills will be incorporated into an omnibus appropriations bill to be taken up later this year.