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Lawmakers make case for dental carve-out bill at Session’s end

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On Day 60 of the 2016 Legislative Session and with passage of a bill to separate children’s dental insurance under Medicaid from other medical coverage secured, GOP lawmakers held a press conference to garner support for their plan and potentially avert a veto from Gov. Rick Scott.

Senate President-designate Joe Negron and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz spoke to reporters to burnish their bill, saying it is keeping with national trends and would more efficiently administer care. Both legislators said having a separate policy and benefit card for general medical and dental care cuts out HMO middle-men who end up sub-contracting with the same entities the state could deal with directly.

“If you look at states that are making this decision now, they are overwhelmingly going with the independent model,” said Negron. “The states with the highest utilization rates… are going with the model we have proposed.

The Legislature recently approved a similar separation for inmates under within Department of Corrections, said Negron, and Florida’s children deserve at least the same.

Sen. Alan Hays, who is also a practicing dentist, endorsed the move as well.

“Dentistry is a unique profession, and it deserves to have a unique plan to administer it,” said Hays. He also said that a federal rule mandating that 85 percent of dental funding goes to care – as opposed to overhead – is abrogated when dental and general medical care are intermingled.

Negron said that despite heavy lobbying efforts on behalf of state health care plan interests, ultimately his carve-out will be enacted into law.

“I think when ultimately Governor Scott will look closely at this issue and make the best decision for Florida’s children,” said Negron, “so that children who receive their dental care from Medicaid are treated as much as possible like everyone else in Florida.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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