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News & Press: MPCA News

MPCA Annual Award Presented to Sen. Shirkey for Dental Therapist Legislation

Tuesday, April 23, 2019  
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Center for Family Health CEO Molly Kaser with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.


Today the Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA) presented Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R–Clarklake) with the Champion for the Medically Underserved Award for his sponsorship of and advocacy for Senate Bill 541.


“Having coverage for dental services doesn’t guarantee care, especially if you’re a Medicaid beneficiary,” said Molly Kaser, Center for Family Health’s chief executive officer and MPCA’s board president-elect. “Health centers know we should use every evidence-based model of care at our disposal to ensure our communities get access to care they need. We’re grateful for Sen. Shirkey’s willingness to explore innovative solutions to these massive coverage gaps.”


Only 10 percent of licensed dentists in Michigan provide services to Medicaid beneficiaries, and 76 of Michigan’s 83 counties have at least one dental shortage area. Although Michigan’s community health centers have stepped in to fill the gaps, especially for patients on Medicaid, the need for care is still greater than their capacity to provide it.


As one way to address the problem, Sen. Shirkey introduced Senate Bill 541, which was signed into law on Dec. 28, 2018. The bill allows for the licensure of dental therapists, midlevel providers who can perform routine dental care, such as cleanings and fillings, under the supervision of a dentist. The bill also requires that half of a dental therapist’s patients be low income, disabled, or uninsured.


“I am honored and humbled to receive this award from the Michigan Primary Care Association,” said Sen. Shirkey. “The licensure of dental therapists is an excellent example of how we were able to solve a problem by finding solutions within our existing systems. Oral health care is an important part of maintaining overall health and well-being. This legislation provides for the necessary expansion of critical services to underserved areas. I appreciate the recognition for finding commonsense solutions to lingering problems.”


This award, given annually during the MPCA’s Legislative Forum, recognizes leaders for their work in promoting and protecting affordable, quality health care for medically underserved populations in Michigan.

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