House Bill 139
, sponsored by Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would create a program administered by the Florida Department of Health that would provide $10,000 to $100,000 rewards to dentists working in rural or low-income communities, the News Service of Florida
reports. The grant money could have been used for repayment of dental school student loans; investment in property, facilities or equipment for the dental office; or expenses related to relocation or opening of a dental practice, according to the bill
Scott says the bill is duplicative of existing programs, such as the statewide Medicaid Managed Care program and Florida KidCare, NSF says. Scott added that "the large majority of County Health Departments and Community Health Centers provide Florida families in rural communities access to dental services."
"While I agree with the bill sponsors that maintaining good oral health is integral to the overall health of Florida families, I cannot support a program that does not place appropriate safeguards on taxpayer investments,'' Scott says in a veto letter, according to NSF. "The bill does not require dentists who receive taxpayer dollars to hire a specific number of new employees or to serve a certain number of low-income patients each year. Furthermore, the bill opens the door for state dollars to be used to incentivize other high-income professionals."
In spite of the unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats in the Florida Legislature, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a measure that would have provided grants for dentists to open private practices in the state's medically underserved areas.