The Codcast: A conversation with teeth in it

Oral health is intrinsically related to overall physical health but for those without dental insurance, especially poor children, access to a dentist presents challenges both financially and geographically.

State Sen. Harriette Chandler of Worcester and state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli of Lenox have introduced bills in the Legislature to create a new practitioner called “dental therapists,” a highly trained dental hygienist who can perform basic procedures such as fillings, simple extractions of non-impacted teeth, and x-ray readings.

The measure’s proponents say creating the job of dental therapist (think nurse practitioner for the mouth) like three other states have and at least another dozen are considering would expand affordable access to dental care and reduce the high emergency room bills for preventable oral health problems that end up being paid by taxpayers through MassHealth. And, they argue, the therapists would only be performing the procedures under the supervision of practicing dentists. But that’s where the arguments diverge.

The Massachusetts Dental Society, which acknowledges the need for wider access, has filed its own competing bill. Dr. Ray Martin, president of the dental society and a dentist with a private practice in Mansfield, joined The Codcast to talk about the measure. Martin says the wording of the Chandler/Pignatelli bills would allow some of the procedures to take place outside of a dental office – up to 100 miles from the supervising dentist – in places such as a nursing home, which may not have access to necessary equipment and a trained dentist should something go awry. Martin says his group’s bill would require “direct” supervision of dental therapists and bar therapists from performing off-site procedures.

One-time gubernatorial candidate Dr. Don Berwick, a pediatrician who was administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration, was also on The Codcast and praised the dental society’s acknowledgement of the need for more access. But Berwick, who is one of the leading supporters of the Chandler/Pignatelli bill, says the restrictions placed on the practice by the dentists’ measure would not go far enough in creating wider access or reducing costs. He suggests passing the first bill, which the Senate last year approved unanimously before it died in the House, and then tinkering with it to make some adjustments.

We hope the conversation gives listeners something to chew on.

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Attorney General Maura Healey says she will sign on to a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington challenging President Trump’s new, revised immigration ban. (Boston Globe)

Sen. Thomas McGee of Lynn floats the idea of more highway tolls. (State House News)

Sen. Bruce Tarr gets some love from his hometown newspaper for refusing to accept the pay raise. (Gloucester Times)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Globe columnist Tom Farragher delivers a blistering takedown of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, saying by blaming Lawrence for being the source of most of the fentanyl coming to his state he came off like an “opportunistic lightweight.”

Emails obtained by the Boston Herald show a top aide to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh expressing serious concerns about the viability of the IndyCar race months before the plug was pulled on the event and while Walsh and others were still boosting it publicly.

Rep. Aaron Michlewitz wants the city of Boston to pony up some money to support to the Rose Kennedy Greenway — or he says the state should block development of a Winthrop Square tower that needs legislative approval because it would violate existing law on shadows being cast on Boston Common. (Boston Globe)

Abington police are increasing patrols at the town cemetery while asking the public’s help to clean up the burial ground, which has become a place for some people to dump their trash. (The Enterprise)

The parade controversy continues in South Boston, where organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade have yet to reverse their ban on a gay veterans group marching despite being upbraided by civic and political leaders and seeing corporate sponsors threaten to pull out. (Boston Globe)

Sudbury selectmen have endorsed a $1.1 million override that will add $184 to the average tax bill to pay for school costs and add public safety personnel. (MetroWest Daily News)

A Herald editorial decries talk by the Boston NAACP of revisiting the idea of returning to an elected Boston school committee, saying the organization seems to have forgotten that the elected board was a “case study in municipal dysfunction.”

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The White House and some House Republicans are taking preemptive strikes on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in advance of the agency’s analysis of the GOP health bill that could sink the measure. (New York Times)

The IRS is expected to begin releasing some of the nearly 7,000 previously undisclosed documents sought by a conservative watchdog group that allegedly could be related to targeting of right wing nonprofits by the agency. (American Spectator)

The head of the international soccer ruling body said a potential bid by the US to host the 2026 World Cup could be in jeopardy because of President Trump’s travel ban. (ESPN)

The top general overseeing military operations in the Middle East took responsibility for the controversial raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and at least a dozen civilians. (U.S. News & World Report)

The Herald resurrects the story of Sen Elizabeth Warren’s vote three months ago against the 21st Century Cures Act, which the state’s senior senator called a giveaway to big pharmaceutical companies, saying she pandered to her progressive base and sacrificed the needs of the sizable Massachusetts biopharmaceutical sector.

ELECTIONS

A Winchester investment millionaire, John Kingston, is seriously considering a Republican run for US Senate against Elizabeth Warren, and he could be poised to ante up a considerable sum of his own money for a race. (Boston Globe)  

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new report from the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows hundreds of the top corporations in the country paid little or no taxes between 2008 and 2015 and the New York Times offers an analysis of how they do it.

Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson seems poised for a long tenure in a fast-changing environment that will require more nimble leadership than was demanded of her father during his decades at the helm of the firm. (Boston Globe)

A part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers has invested $100 million in the Boston-based sports fantasy company DraftKings. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

Derek Kellogg, the UMass basketball coach, is sacked after the last game of a losing season. (Daily Hampshire Gazette) Kellogg is often regarded as the highest-paid state employee in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee votes 4-3 along town lines to close an elementary school in Cheshire. (Berkshire Eagle) Many rural schools are caught in a “death spiral.” (CommonWealth)

Several students from Nauset High School and their parents raised questions of censorship after they said they were told their paintings were “too political” to hang in a display at Orleans Town Hall along with those of 40 other classmates. (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Chris Dempsey and Jesse Mermell say U.S. News & World Report may be right that we’re No. 1, but not when it comes to transportation. (CommonWealth)

The city’s 224-page blueprint for Boston’s transportation barely mentions taxis, and those in the cab industry say they plight of their collapsing — but city regulated — industry is getting ignored. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Eversource Energy and National Grid are espousing competing philosophies on how to bring the power from offshore wind ashore. (CommonWealth)

Residents oppose the expansion of a landfill in Southbridge. (Telegram & Gazette)

CASINOS

Gambling commission chairman Stephen Crosby crows about the forward-looking casino law that the state put in place. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

DNA evidence has allowed officials to construct a composite sketch of a man wanted for questioning in connection with two murders and three rapes in the Brockton area. (Boston Herald)

In fight over bail’s fairness, a sheriff joins the critics. (New York Times)

The former Kingston fire chief who had abruptly resigned last month after getting a three-year contract extension is facing a sexual assault charge stemming from an incident with a 23-year-old man he reached out to through Facebook. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

The Holy Cross newspaper, called The Crusader, wants to changes its name because a KKK publication uses the same title. (Telegram & Gazette)

Media stocks are doing well under President Trump. (Bloomberg)

Politifact, the national fact-checking operation, has lost several of its state partners recently, including the Providence Journal. (Poynter)