Dental School Roots Betrayed

UNLV’s Dental School was created on a promise – now proven false – that it would not cost Nevada taxpayers anything. Rebecca Ward from Dayton, NV, emailed legislators in 2005…

I am writing this e-mail to express my thoughts regarding the Dental School.  I am a retired State employee.  When the Dental School was first introduced to the legislators, I was the budget analyst in the Department of Administration who prepared the Executive Branch budget for the Division of Health Care Financing and Policy.

I will never forget how Senator Rawson pushed through his plans for the Dental School.  It was at a time when all budgets were severely restricted from introducing new programs due to State fiscal problems.  All new programs were to be justified through an extensive “business plan” process.  Senator Rawson used his considerable power to push this program through without the normal “business plan” checks and balances.  Instead, he convinced his colleagues that this program could be funded primarily through Medicaid funds, Intergovernmental Transfer Account funds, and other miscellaneous funding.  He also claimed that there was a severe shortage of dentists in Nevada and that the school would alleviate this shortage.

It is my opinion that the Dental School was not properly justified and that it was pushed through at the final legislative hours for purely political purposes.

A Review Journal editorial reported the same information…

The sponsors’ initial promise was that Nevada’s dental school would cost the state nothing — Medicaid funds that foot dental care for poor children would simply be channeled to the new school, covering its entire budget in exchange for the instructors’ willingness to perform the needed charity work “out the back door,” as it were.

When that turned out to be illegal, a new pair of schemes was hatched. The state contracted with Sierra Health to handle the Medicaid contract — paying that firm a percentage of the take for this legal “cover” — and meantime the state bought out three private Southern Nevada dental practices, the intention being to take over those patient rosters, have dental school faculty tend to those patients’ dental needs, and use the resulting profits to fund the dental school.

But, “The patients more or less found other service providers,” recalls state Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, who replaced Mr. Rawson in Carson City.

The bottom line? In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, the dental school collected only $2.35 million of registration fees. The rest of its $26 million budget comes from taxes of one form or another, no matter how they’re routed. That budget is slated to go up next year and every year thereafter.

The problem with closing it down is there are students there who believe they are entitled to their degree – and a number of legislators agree and are willing to raise taxes to fund their belief. However, with many US dental schools now private, perhaps we can find one that would agree to “take over” UNLV’s school, with a state subsidy for existing students until they graduate.

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