NU Online News Service, Sept. 3, 3:37 p.m. ? Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift, a Republican, has signed H.B. 4676, a bill that exempts dental and vision plans from the state’s definition of health care “carrier.”

The final version of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Nancy Flavin, D-Easthampton, Mass., explicitly excludes dental and vision plans from the definitions of carrier used in the state statutes governing nonprofit hospital service corporations, medical service corporations, health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations.

The bill will free dental and vision plans operating in Massachusetts from a number of consumer-protection laws aimed mainly at major medical carriers.

The bill “is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience,” according to the bill text.

Because the bill is treated as an emergency law, it takes effect immediately.

The bill was originally introduced in April 2001 as H.B. 4214. The earlier version of the bill would have made the same changes as H.B. 4674 but was drafted differently.

The second version passed by a voice vote in the House and 34-5 in the Senate.

The text of the bill is on the Web at http://www.state.ma.us/legis/bills/house/ht04676.htm