“Now more than ever, it is essential that we keep general dentists in the eye of legislators,” said Mike Bromberg, DDS, chair of the AGD Legislative and Government Affairs (LGA) Council. “Regulatory efforts and legislative decisions impacting our practices and how we run our businesses are being discussed on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the country. Dentistry is essential healthcare. Unless we are at the table, no one will speak for us, and decisions will be made without our considerations in mind.”
Bromberg, a general dentist from California and longtime advocate for AGD, is passionate about speaking up for general dentists. He helped organize AGD’s Hill Day, which was held virtually June 21. He and nearly 40 AGD volunteer leaders connected with members of Congress and spoke on a range of topics. Before their congressional meetings, attendees heard from guest speakers and received advocacy training on the issues facing oral health and general dentistry.
AGD members are active in advocacy throughout the year, but Hill Day offers the organization an opportunity to create powerful connections by coming together as a group and collectively bringing important topics to legislators and their staff. With new information, insights and an understanding of the impact of legislation on patients, businesses and public health in their communities, members of Congress are better prepared to make informed decisions on bills advancing in Congress.
Reid M. Owens, DDS, FICD, was one of the participants in last week’s sessions. As a general dentist from Louisiana, a major in the Louisiana Army National Guard and member of AGD LGA Council, he is active in monitoring the impact legislation and regulatory decisions have on AGD members and the profession. “Dentistry as a profession has a very respected history in society; this is a lasting impression that must be preserved for future generations as well,” he said. “Advocacy is our future. It's empowering to work together with our volunteer leaders and AGD staff to build language and eventually legislation that protects our patients, our profession and, ultimately, our respected place in the future of medicine.”
Hill Day connected AGD advocacy leaders with members of Congress to discuss AGD’s priority legislative issues. The keynote speaker was Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). Meetings with lawmakers were focused on the need for support of AGD’s top advocacy priorities, including:
- Medicaid Dental Benefit Act of 2021, S. 3166/H.R. 4439
Legislation that would expand the Medicaid program to provide dental benefits coverage and support for a new program to provide coverage to low-income seniors (under 300% federal poverty level). Learn more.
- Dental and Optometric Care Access Act of 2021 (DOC Access Act), S. 1793/H.R. 3461
Legislation that would prevent insurers from holding dentists to fees for services insurers don’t cover. Learn more.
- Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021, H.R. 4555
Legislation to help develop and test evidence-based oral health literacy strategies across vulnerable populations to provide oral disease prevention education. Learn more.
- The Resident Education Deferred Interest Act (REDI Act), H.R. 4122/S. 3658
Legislation that would allow new dentists to qualify for interest-free deferment on their student loans while serving in a dental internship or residency program. Learn more.
“Most offices I’ve met with over the past eight years have welcomed our issues of concern and share opinion with AGD’s efforts to protect both clinician and patient interests,” said Owens. “This year, during one of my meetings, Senator Bill Cassidy’s (R-LA) office took particular interest in the REDI and DOC Access acts as well as the Oral Health Literacy & Awareness Act. Oral Health Literacy had overwhelming support in the House, so we’re hopeful it will pass the Senate, too. Cassidy, being a medical physician himself, has been a great ambassador for our efforts on the Hill the past few years. He has great concern not only for the doctor-patient relationship, but also for the preservation of the small-business practice model most of us generalists maintain throughout our careers.”
Bromberg said that AGD is recognized as a strong voice in Washington, D.C., and, in recent years, the organization has celebrated some important victories. Some examples include fighting against a tax on medical devices, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, which removes unfair protection of insurance companies from antitrust acts, and threats from midlevel provider legislation at the state levels.
Owen added, “AGD is 40,000 strong in membership, and that speaks volumes — being the largest professional dental organization representing the needs and interests of general dentists. However, it declares even greater volume when we have a large member presence on Hill Day. If helping in person is not your thing, financially supporting the AGD Advocacy Fund and taking action digitally through our AGD Action Center regularly can help the organization achieve its goals.”
Bromberg noted that in order to be more successful in legislative discussions, AGD needs more members. “Legislative offices look at numbers, and we want a higher percentage of general dentists as AGD members in order to raise our profile in any legislative or regulatory discussion.”
Bromberg encourages members to make concerted efforts to become consistent advocates for general dentistry. This means being resources for legislators and making phone calls, stopping by your legislators’ offices and just staying in touch.
“We must maintain these interactions because we never know when someone will reach out for more information,” said Bromberg. “Being an advocate to a legislator means that you are there for the entire office. This means that sometimes you might be asked to connect with a legislative analyst or legislative assistant instead of the Congressperson.”
He added, “Stay vigilant. One call is not enough. Other special interest groups are working to keep their best interests in mind. AGD must do the same for general dentists. That’s why creating lasting relationships is so important.”
To get involved or learn more, visit AGD Advocacy or email firstname.lastname@example.org.