Pair of Felzkowski-authored bills focused on rural dental care signed into law

By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Editor

WAUSAU – Governor Tony Evers last week signed two bills authored by State Senator Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) that focus on access to dental care in rural areas.


Felzkowski’s bills were among five signed by Evers at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

The first piece of legislation authored by Felzkowski, now 2024 Wisconsin Act 87, authorizes the licensure of dental therapists, a mid-level dental provider similar to a physician’s assistant. Dental therapists will be able to provide both preventive and restorative services and help fill gaps in care in areas where there are shortages of dentists, a release from Evers’s office said.

Felzkowski’s second bill will “significantly improve the ability of technical colleges across the state to support and strengthen the dental and oral hygiene workforce,” according to the release. The legislation provides guidelines for the allocation of $20 million for oral healthcare workforce initiatives that was set aside for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in the Joint Finance Committee’s supplemental appropriation during the 2023-25 biennial budget process.

The other three pieces of legislation signed into law ratify and enter Wisconsin into the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact, providing individuals with the ability to become eligible to practice in Wisconsin and other compact states; modify the existing health services scholarship program to address the lack of dental professionals throughout the state by limiting eligibility to students enrolled in the Marquette University School of Dentistry who agree to practice dentistry in a dental health shortage area for 18 months for each annual scholarship received; require the Higher Education Aids Board to provide $350,000.00 annually to the School of Dentistry for the development and operation of programs that support recruiting and training of rural dentistry students; and allow those with dental insurance coverage to assign reimbursement for dental services to a specific dental provider, removing the need for patients to cover the cost of care at the point of service and wait for reimbursement from their insurance provider.

“If you had asked me, when I took my oath of office in 2013, what I’d guess one of my proudest achievements would someday be as a legislator, I never would have guessed that it would be a dental care bill that took me eight years to pass,” Felzkowski said regarding Act 87. “I think it’s easier today than it has ever been to look out at the path before you, muddled with obstacles and naysayers and cynics, throw up your hands in defeat and turn away from a challenge. But good things aren’t meant to come easily, and if you really believe in what’s at the end of that road, you can’t give yourself the option to give up. The pen I hold in my hand today, used to sign my bill into law, is proof that it’s worth it. And several years from now, when Wisconsin graduates its first dental therapist, I know that in a way, it’ll feel like it’s my own child graduating.”


“The health and well-being of our state and our economy depend on the health and well-being of our communities, including ensuring that all Wisconsinites have access to quality, affordable healthcare,” Evers stated. “I am proud to sign these five bipartisan bills that will move us forward in our work to address shortages and bolster our dental healthcare workforce while also closing gaps in access across the state. Coupled with my administration’s new Healthcare Workforce Task Force, these bills will help us build upon our administration’s work to support and strengthen this workforce and ensure more folks can get the dental care they need, especially in our rural communities while finding real, long-term solutions to address the challenges our healthcare industry faces today.” 

Scroll to Top