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2023 Oral Health Advocacy Checkup

Building on the success of the past legislative session, Hawai‘i Oral Health Coalition (HOHC) supports two measures aimed at increasing access to care and formally assessing the state of oral health in Hawai‘i. While the reinstatement of Medicaid dental coverage for adults has set the stage for improved outcomes, we’re committed to further supporting a successful program by continuing to address workforce, access, and prevention.

SB 162 SD2 proposes revisions to the Hawai‘i Dental Practice Act, allowing qualified dentist and dental hygiene candidates from approved Canadian programs to obtain community service and temporary licensure in Hawai‘i. Candidates who complete these requirements may provide direct care to residents with Medicaid and those who lack insurance. While this measure doesn’t open the door to all prospective practitioners from Canada, it does seek to welcome well-qualified, approved dental graduates into select community dental settings. If passed, this measure has significant potential to increase access to care for thousands of Hawai‘i residents, especially adults who have recently gained expanded coverage through Medicaid.

HB 617 HD1 seeks to establish an oral health task force to assess infrastructure and systems to make recommendations to the state on strategies to improve access to care, increase community resources, and address barriers to positive oral health outcomes. This measure also requests funding for two positions dedicated to oral health under the Department of Health, which can be a stepping stone to restoring a state-sponsored oral health branch.

Prior to this session, the HOHC workforce, advocacy, and leadership teams had been working full steam to develop what is now SB 162. Teams met with oral health stakeholders across the state to promote and refine the measure before finally achieving legislative sponsorship. Simultaneously, and under the direction of an established legislative sponsor, select members had been sought out along with other stakeholders to help develop HB 617 to capture the significant need and benefit of an appointed task force.

Most recently, both measures have passed through their referred committees and crossed over to the other chambers. We are exceedingly hopeful for continued support from the respective health, consumer protection, and budget committees and are fully prepared to advocate for the passage of these bills by all means necessary. HOHC’s very existence stands on the principle of advocating for equitable opportunities for all Hawai‘i residents to access oral health care, and our commitment to that principle continues to guide us in 2023.

Patrick Donnelly

Patrick Donnelly

Program Manager: Hawai'i Oral Health Coalition
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