The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2022 funding legislation on July 15 for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS). As anticipated, the Committee has included funding for vital oral health-related programs and provisions in the FY2022 Labor-HHS package (H.R.4502).
Some of the key provisions included were:
- Continuation of funding for General Dentistry Residency Programs and the Dental Faculty Loan Repayment program
- $500,000 for HRSA’s oral health literacy awareness and education campaign
- Language bolstering the authority of HRSA’s Chief Dental Officer (CDO) position and expressing disapproval at HRSA’s lack of progress on this matter.
- Language expressing satisfaction that CMS is taking steps to fill the vacancy of the CDO position at CMS.
- Language urging CMS to develop guidance for State Medicaid agencies (SMAs) to ensure the accuracy of Medicaid dental audits. The Committee expressed concern that SMAs lack guidelines and are conducting inaccurate audits, which in turn negatively impact providers and patients.
Unfortunately, the Committee also struck a longstanding provision prohibiting funding for dental therapy demonstration programs. However, the authorization for HRSA to provide funds through this mechanism expired in 2017, and consequently, the reversal of this prohibition is primarily a matter of optics.
While the House has been active in advancing FY2022 funding proposals, the Senate has yet to take up any legislation but may begin initial work in the coming weeks. At this time, a bicameral funding measure is unlikely to be finalized before the September 30 deadline, and Congress is expected to avert a government shutdown via a short-term funding resolution.
Impact on General Dentistry: AGD appreciates the consideration and inclusion of oral health policy provisions and sustained funding by the House in its Labor-HHS package. The AGD regularly works with relevant appropriations subcommittees to safeguard government programs that improve the nation’s oral health and the practice of general dentistry and will continue to do so throughout the FY2022 process.