A Call for Action: Support VET CARE Act

  • by AGD Staff
  • Jul 27, 2020
The VET CARE Act of 2019 (H.R. 2628), introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), recently passed the House Veterans Affairs Committee and is now pending a full vote in the House. The AGD Legislative and Governmental Affairs and Dental Practice councils are urging AGD members to send a clear message to their legislators and the Speaker of the House that this bill needs to be voted on this session. 

The following is their call for action on this important issue: 

This bill addresses dental care programs for veterans, authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to furnish administrative support to a dental care provider that provides services to a veteran that would not be covered by VA benefits. The bill also requires the VA to implement a pilot program to provide free outpatient dental services, treatment and related dental appliances to eligible veterans. 

This legislation leverages the VA’s status as the largest integrated health system in the world by directing the VA to carry out a pilot program to help our veterans live healthier lives while saving money at the same time.

The pilot program provides funding for veterans in existing healthcare programs to receive necessary dental care and test the hypothesis that treating oral health conditions, such as periodontitis, may yield cost savings for overall health.

Previous correlational studies have demonstrated that individuals who receive proper preventive dental care have lower total medical costs than those who do not. The study, provided for by the VET CARE Act, will be the first-ever randomized controlled trial, controlling for variables and addressing cost in a manner necessary to establish causation when evaluating the connection between oral health and overall health.

If the hypothesis that treating oral health conditions — such as periodontitis — yields cost savings for overall health is supported, there are vast implications for the practice of dentistry. Health insurance companies already incentivize patients to go to the dentist through point systems and reductions in premiums because they know that patients with a healthy mouth are more likely to have a healthy body. Similarly, employers who provide dental coverage do so, in part, because of projected cost savings and increased employee productivity.

A pilot program including this type of research can be expected to provide data that will ultimately drive patients to dental practice offices to receive oral healthcare, stem disease, and keep practices busier and more efficient. In fact, data demonstrating a causative link between oral health and overall health could be critical in addressing the “busyness” problem in dentistry without intruding upon the operation of the free market.

This legislation is unique in that it provides for a study evaluating oral health and requires a report back to Congress. This report to Congress will highlight the critical importance of oral health and provide us with a foundation we can use to advocate on behalf of our patients and our profession.

The VET CARE Act will help our veterans while yielding data critical to the practice of dentistry. Stand with AGD to tell your legislators and the Speaker of the House that this legislation must be voted upon in this legislative session.

We encourage you to review these letters and stay apprised of AGD efforts to advocate on your behalf. These policies have significant impact on our practices, which is why we continue to review and respond to proposed bills, regulations and other initiatives.  

Our purpose is to make sure the voice of the general dentist is always heard. Stay informed and involved. Visit AGD’s Take Action webpage for more information.