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California governor signs two dental bills

Add California to the list of states that have passed bills prohibiting insurance companies from controlling what a dentist may charge for services the insurers don’t cover.

California’s noncovered services bill was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sept. 30. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

California is the 16th state to pass noncovered services legislation.

The bill allows dentists to charge up to their usual and customary fees that would apply to most private pay patients for services not covered by a dental benefit plan. It also requires dental plans to provide a disclosure statement in their enrollees' evidence of coverage document explaining that dentists may charge their usual and customary rate. The document also must advise that the dental treatment plan and costs be reviewed and encourage patients to contact their plan or insurance broker for further information.

The law is the result of lobbying by the California Dental Association, whose House of Delegates passed a resolution in November 2009 directing the association to consider options, including legislation, that would ban the fee restrictions on noncovered services.

Gov. Schwarzenegger also signed a separate bill that will add a new school-based portfolio licensure examination option for California dental students. The bill was sponsored by the Dental Board of California and supported by the CDA and the six California dental schools.

The portfolio licensure exam process, which will replace the current California clinical exam, will allow students to build a portfolio of completed clinical experiences and competency exams in seven subject areas over the entire course of their final year of dental school. Students also will continue to have the option of taking the Western Regional Examining Board exam or completing a one-year general practice residency program in order to become licensed.

The new law will become effective Jan. 1, 2011, but the Dental Board will need to adopt regulations containing the specific details of the process before the option can be made available to students.