House lawmakers gave an early OK tonight to a measure that would stop health insurance plans from requiring dentists to agree to discounted fees for services not covered by the policy. The bill has already passed the Senate. 

Right now, insurance companies can, as part of their contracts, get dentists to agree to cap rates for certain non-covered services, like tooth whitening or cosmetic procedures. Dentists want this to stop; they say they have little negotiating power to say no to the biggest insurance companies and are losing out on much-needed revenue.

State Rep. J.M. Lozano, D-Kingsville, and the author of the bill, said roughly 20 states have already adopted such measures.  

But the Texas Association of Business has argued the measure is bad for consumers, who won't have the benefit of a negotiated — read: cheaper — rate. 

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"It just makes the dentists richer," said Bill Hammond, the organization's president. "This sets a horrible precedent, not just for dentists, but for every medical profession known to man that can come back next session." 

Meanwhile, insurance companies are not opposing the bill, because they say it's a step better than the original language lawmakers proposed.

"We don't believe the Legislature should interfere in contractual arrangements between private parties," Jared Wolfe, executive director of the Texas Association of Health Plans, wrote in an email. "But... we agreed to be neutral on it."



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