Coverage of legislative fight over hygienists spotlights work of regional health news service

Image by Official U.S. Navy Page via flickr.

Photo: Official U.S. Navy Page via Flickr.

Through public fights, complicated amendments and rumors of passage, Andy Miller of Georgia Health News followed the drama of House Bill 684.

And when the bill recently died a sudden death in the Georgia statehouse, Miller was there to let readers know.

“A bill to allow Georgia dental hygienists to work in safety-net settings without a dentist present appeared to get a strong push forward when it was approved by a House health committee,” he wrote. “But the chamber’s rules committee then blocked House Bill 684 from a vote on the floor, effectively killing it for the year.”

Oral health advocates had been hopeful for passage of the legislation, which would have enabled Georgia dental hygienists to work in so-called safety-net settings – including long-term care facilities, schools and nonprofit clinics – without a dentist present.

But the Georgia Dental Association was able to get the bill killed, arguing that the legislation would allow the delivery of second-class care.

Andy Miller

Andy Miller

In Georgia, a state with roughly 150 federally-designated dental provider shortage areas, the lack of oral health services is an important topic.

Miller’s coverage helped highlight the deep and ongoing debate in his state over how best to meet the care needs of many vulnerable residents.

In this new Q and A, Miller offers insights into how his coverage of the dental hygiene bill unfolded, and where oral health care coverage fits into the larger mission at Georgia Health News. He also shares some wisdom on how he balances his time and responsibilities at the independent nonprofit news organization.

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