Legislative Town Hall Success!
The nearly year-long pandemic has forced all manner of change upon our usual routines. This is not always a bad thing. Case in point is MDA’s first-ever virtual Legislative Town Hall held earlier this week. Normally many of you are convening on the Capitol this week to advocate for the profession. The MDA spends time and money to arrange a reception the night before, produce a volume of materials to equip members, coordinate individual meetings with elected officials in a very fluid environment and make sure we have plenty of tables, coffee pots, etc. This interaction is both engaging and refreshing for the participating member and super productive in moving our agenda forward. However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat (my apologies to cat lovers, me included).
By hosting a virtual event this year, we accomplished many things in addition to sharing our agenda. We saved time and money on a reception. We spared people from time away from the practice and a snowy drive. And up until the eleventh hour, the Senate was considering having a debate during our scheduled time so we dodged that logistical hassle. Instead we had larger attendance than ever before (more than 140 members and dental students registered and more than 100 attended). We had ample time to share our concerns so that both our members and key legislative leaders could understand them. (Kudos to Dr. Ron Wilkerson, MDA Legislative Director, for emceeing the event.) We were privileged to have focused attention and input from top leaders at the Capitol including Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, Speaker of the House Rob Vescovo, Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden and House Majority Leader Dean Plocher. It speaks well of our advocacy team’s reputation over time that these state government leaders would make this event a priority amid competing others, and it speaks well of the entire MDA membership that so many members made time to engage as well. If you missed the evening, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a link to watch the webinar on demand, just under 40 minutes long.
Advocacy doesn’t stop with one event. In fact, all Town Hall attendees as well as all members received a VoterVoice alert the next day allowing them to easily share the MDA’s agenda including SB401 (downcoding) with their elected official. While not as personal as making an office visit, this step does signal your engagement and concern for your profession. We can track participation in VoterVoice and are pleased to see many of you taking action so quickly. One lucky member who attended the live Town Hall and takes this step will win a YETI backpack cooler because we know how fun it is to win prizes as a bonus to doing the right thing.
A final note on advocacy. Success in legislative issues revolves around using your voice and using it often in a variety of ways. Attending the Town Hall is one way. Tracking with our very sharp and experienced advocacy team is another way. Supporting MODentPAC is yet another, influential way to be heard. We have a solicitation currently in the mail asking for 300 members to give $100 each to help us fight downcoding this year. I hope you respond when you see it come across your desk.
First BOT Meeting of 2021
Your MDA Board met this week as well and covered a wide ranging agenda. Of most interest to me was hearing from the dental school deans. Dr. Dwight McCleod from MOSDOH shared about the adjustments students and faculty have made to still deliver a strong clinical education. Some new curriculum is being developed in light of the new realities as well. Dr. McCleod also was proud to acknowledge 2019 graduate, Dr. Lisa Bosch, as the first MOSDOH graduate to serve on the MDA Board. Dr. Russ Melchert, a pharmacist by education, is the interim dean at UMKC SOD. He shared updates about the vaccine and clinic impact in the greater Kansas City area. He also said the search committee has launched and the dental school hopes to have a new dean within six months. The final dean, Dr. Linda Niessen, is still without a physical school. She is leading the KCU College of Dental Medicine development in Joplin. Due to some tech issues in the COVID-era that slowed the accreditation application process, they hope to break ground in June 2021 and be on schedule for a August 2023 opening with a class of 80 candidates. We are glad to have good relationships with the dental schools and have them actively engage in organized dentistry.
Is dentistry changing? Do the stats mirror your experience?
I was on a Zoom call today with ADA’s Health Policy Institute. They have been tracking data since March by polling a wide swath of dentists across the country about the impact of the virus on their staffing, patient volume, finances, etc. You can drill down by state and get all the juicy details at ADA.org/HPI. The high level report is that while 99% of dental practices are open, only 43% report “business as usual” in terms of pre-COVID patient volume. In general, private practices were reporting 80% patient volume. How’s yours? National stats indicate dental utilization was down 20% over the last 12 months. On the financial front, many steps have been taken to maintain sustainability. The leading options were raising fees, borrowing money and reducing hours. What steps have you taken? And finally when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine, there was by no means unanimously strong confidence in the safety and effectiveness among the dental team. However the majority of patients are reporting that overall they feel it is safer to visit the dentist now than a year ago. In the grand scheme there is “cautious optimism” about a return to normal by the fall. Where do you stand on all this? Every situation is a little different but we are still stronger together as we move forward. Remember the MDA has your back.
The Week Ahead
Looks fairly normal except for the annual audit. No one really likes an inspection, but MDA Financial Manager, Denise Lehmen, handles it like a pro. Solid systems and hard work keep the MDA above the fray and in good standing with all our business partners. Think of it as one more hidden benefit for you because good management controls expenses and heads off problems. Thank you, Denise, for facing the music on our behalf.
Quote of the Week
When the world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful. — Malala Yousafzai