SSB 5322

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As Reported by House Committee On:

Health Care & Wellness

Title: An act relating to patient safeguards in agreements between dentists and third parties that provide support services to dentists.

Brief Description: Concerning agreements between dentists and third parties that provide supportive services to dentists.

Sponsors: Senate Committee on Health Care (originally sponsored by Senators King, Frockt, Miloscia, Conway, Hobbs and Becker).

Brief History:

Committee Activity:

Health Care & Wellness: 3/14/17, 3/15/17 [DP].

Brief Summary of Substitute Bill

  • Permits an unlicensed person or entity to own or lease assets used by a dental practice, employ or contract for services of personnel other than licensed dental providers, provide business support and management services to a dental practice, and receive fees for such services.

  • Prohibits interference with a dentist's independent clinical judgment.

  • Prohibits a dentist from abandoning a patient, and requires a dentist to provide notifications under certain circumstances.


Majority Report: Do pass. Signed by 17 members: Representatives Cody, Chair; Macri, Vice Chair; Schmick, Ranking Minority Member; Graves, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Caldier, Clibborn, DeBolt, Harris, Jinkins, MacEwen, Maycumber, Riccelli, Robinson, Rodne, Slatter, Stonier and Tharinger.

Staff: Alexa Silver (786-7190).


Practice of Dentistry.

Dentists are licensed and regulated by the Dental Quality Assurance Commission. No person may practice dentistry without first obtaining a license. The practice of dentistry is defined as:

Corporations are prohibited from practicing dentistry or soliciting dental patronage for dentists employed by a corporation. This restriction does not apply to corporations or associations that furnish information or clerical services to a licensed dentist, so long as the information or services can be furnished by unlicensed persons and the dentist assumes full responsibility for the information and services.

Practice of Dentistry in Oregon and Alaska.

In Oregon and Alaska, only a licensed dentist may own, operate, conduct, or maintain a dental practice, office, or clinic, but an unlicensed person is explicitly permitted to:

Uniform Disciplinary Act.

Under the Uniform Disciplinary Act, the Secretary of Health investigates complaints regarding unlicensed practice and may issue a cease and desist order and impose a fine of up to $1,000 per day. Unlicensed practice is also a gross misdemeanor for the first violation and a class C felony for subsequent violations.

Communication with a Government Agency.

Individuals who make good faith reports to government agencies are immune from liability for claims based on that communication. In addition, the agency receiving the information may intervene in and defend against such a lawsuit.


Summary of Bill:

Language providing that the prohibition on corporate practice of dentistry does not apply to entities that furnish information or clerical services to a dentist is removed. A person or entity not licensed by the Dental Quality Assurance Commission may:

A person not licensed as a dentist, or an entity that is not a professional entity, practices dentistry in violation of the law and is subject to enforcement under the Uniform Disciplinary Act (UDA) if it interferes with a dentist's independent clinical judgment by:

An attending dentist may not neglect, ignore, abandon, or refuse to complete the current procedure for a patient without reasonable cause. A dentist who withdraws responsibility for a patient must advise the patient that: (1) termination of treatment is contemplated and that another dentist should be sought; and (2) the dentist will be reasonably available for up to 15 days to render emergency care. A dental practice owner who is discontinuing a dental practice or moving to a new location must comply with these notice requirements or make arrangements for the transfer of active patient records to a dentist, professional entity, or patient. An unlicensed person or entity may not intentionally prevent a dental practice owner from complying with these requirements.

If a dentist provides services as an employee or contractor of another dentist or entity authorized to render dental services or operate a dental office: (1) the other dentist or entity is responsible for the continuing treatment of patients; and (2) the employee/contractor dentist does not abandon a patient for whom continuing treatment responsibility is retained by the other dentist or entity. A licensed dentist who is the owner of an entity is considered the attending dentist responsible for the entity's compliance with these requirements.

The requirement to obtain a license to practice dentistry is clarified by providing that no person may practice dentistry in this state without obtaining a license.

Communicating information to a state agency under the statutes governing good faith communication with a government agency is subject to those statutes.


Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony:

(In support) This bill strikes a balance by allowing dental support organizations to work with clarity under state law, while also providing strong protections for patients, which is the real concern. It allows dentists to operate their businesses and choose the type of support services they need. It also allows the state to hold dental support organizations accountable for their actions.

(Opposed) None.

Persons Testifying: Senator King, prime sponsor; Mellani McAleenan, Washington State Dental Association; Roman Daniels-Brown, Pacific Dental Services; and Cliff Webster, Association of Dental Support Organizations.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.