“Oral Health Care Access” Compact Gains Traction in Multiple States

MADISON, Wisconsin – Legislation in various U.S. states is aiming to make it easier for professionals to obtain occupational licenses across state lines, addressing workforce shortages and increasing access to oral health care. The proposed reform, known as the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact (DDHC), has already gained support from lawmakers and organizations in Wisconsin, and other states like Missouri, Kansas, and more are considering similar measures.

The universal licensing reform legislation, which seeks to recognize out-of-state occupational licenses and reduce barriers to license portability, has been a dominant policy trend in recent years. Nearly 25 states have already enacted universal licensing reform legislation, demonstrating bipartisan support and a commitment to addressing labor shortages and regulatory impediments to work.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers recently voted for final passage on legislation that would make the state the fourth to join the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact. This compact, championed by the American Dental Association, aims to increase the number of oral health professionals who can provide care to Wisconsin residents. The goal of the compact is to create reciprocity among participant states and reduce barriers to license portability in the field of oral health care.

Similar interstate compacts have proven successful in other health care professions, with 15 existing compacts for other licensed professions. According to the National Center for Interstate Compacts, there has been a significant increase in the passage of licensure compact legislation by states in recent years, signaling a growing interest in streamlining occupational licensing requirements and increasing access to essential services.

With more than 590,000 people living in dental health care professional shortage areas in Kansas and over 2,000,000 in Missouri, the need for increased access to oral health care is evident. The connection between oral health and overall health further emphasizes the importance of addressing these shortages and increasing the number of professionals who can provide care to underserved communities.

As states continue to consider and implement DDHC legislation, it is clear that efforts to address workforce shortages and increase access to essential services will remain a priority. The growing interest in universal licensing reform and the utilization of interstate compacts demonstrate a commitment to overcoming regulatory barriers and ensuring that all residents have access to the care they need.

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