Dental Lobby Day comes but once a year. Dentists from various districts throughout the state come together to share their opinions with their respective state Senators and State Representatives concerning bills that relate to dental interests and trepidations. We, as students, are invited to participate in this event, as our opinions and shining young faces can influence the decisions of Senators and Representatives and their support of these bills. The list of bills that were the hot topics this year are listed at the bottom of this article.
For those you of you who have never partaken in the Lobby Day experience, let me give you a brief synopsis of how it works…
7:45 a.m. Arrive at the state Capitol. Pass through security screening and proceed to the basement committee room.
- After paying a slightly absurd amount to park for this brief event (you will get reimbursed) you arrive at the State Capital building and walk through the entry security screening at any of the main entrance doors. After wandering around aimlessly for a few moments, you finally locate the hidden elevators and go down one level to the basement, where you proceed to the committee room. You pick up your color-coded folder filled with a list of talking points, legislator handouts, lobby cards, a name tag, and various reference materials including a map of the capitol and “Face Book” packets containing pictures of all of the members of the Senate and House. You enjoy a light Panera-catered breakfast and mingle with some of the familiar faces present, such as our very own Dr. Sessa.
8:00 a.m. The CDA will provide message training to discuss issues and messaging, and ask any questions. Groups are divided by their geographical location.
- This is basically to discuss and inform us on the issues we will be lobbying, and give us the opportunity to ask any questions. Then, according to the color of our folders (they are arranged by geographic location of the districts) we are broken into groups with a team leader. For example, my yellow folder was for the East Metro region of Colorado, and Dr. Karen Foster was my team leader.
9:00 a.m. Follow your group and group leader to the 2nd floor lobby. Work with your team leaders to discuss dental issues.
- Everyone then heads upstairs to the Senate and House floor, and this is where the real “lobbying” and excitement begins. Lobbying literally is just that; you send in a lobby card where you have written the name of your respective Senator or Representative to the nice gentleman/woman guarding the doors into the Senate or House, these cards somehow are magically delivered to that person, then they come out to the lobby to hear you give your passionate speech concerning the topic of these pressing dental issues.
- Our group was lucky enough to be invited onto the Senate floor! Last year, I met a Senator named Bill Cadman who is from my very own hometown of Whitefish, Montana. So, I wrote his name on my lobby card and before I knew it, Senator Cadman was walking out the door holding my lobby card. Two really great things happened right then: #1 was that Bill remembered me. #2 was that Bill was apparently the newly elected President of the Senate. Neat! Bill then invited me, Annie Bielinski, Michael Murphy, and one of our baby pre-dental students that we had recruited into attending, to the Senate floor, where we sat on the perimeter of the room and watched the activity going on around us. And posed for a photo, of course. (See pic, I will email them). Bill then led us all through into his office, which was equipped with a speaker playing the discussions going on in the Senate floor. We sat in a circle and intermittently talked about the dental bills we were there to lobby, interspersed with topics varying from Paragliding, talking your way out of speeding tickets, skiing in Europe, and hearing about Bill’s various travel experiences. Hopefully Bill kept to his word and spread all of our extremely knowledgeable and convincing lobbying to the rest of the Senate.
9:45 a.m.: Switch to the lobby of the second chamber (Senate or House)
10:30 a.m.: Eat lunch with legislators and engage in more detailed conversations about dental issues
12:00 p.m. Depart the Capitol
This sums up our short, yet eventful, morning at the State Capitol. We mingled with some Senators, went onto the Floor of the Senate, sat and spoke personally with the president of the Senate, and met various dentists from throughout the state. Overall, Lobby Day is an incredible experience. It is an amazing opportunity to meet some very powerful and influential people and have an impact on legal processes that directly impact us and our future careers. I highly recommend that everyone partakes in this experience!
Lobby Day Hot Topics!
- Access to Care: Dental Provider Designation Systems (HB 1191)
- Last summer, a dental insurer decided to implement a provider rating system that ranks dentists using a 1-3 star rating based only on cost of care. This bill is to regulate this designation program to include other factors, including quality of care, and patient demographics.
- Access-to-Care: Medicaid Reimbursement bill (HB 1151)
- In 2013, the CDA launched the “Take 5” program to recruit dentists to enroll as Medicaid providers. However, Medicaid rates aren’t sustainable for dental practices. This bill is working towards better funding for Medicaid dental services.
- Access-to-Care: Loan Forgiveness (CDPHE Budget Request)
- To provide for increased student loan forgiveness incentive packages to recruit dentists to serve in rural and underserved areas.
- Access-to Care: Incentives for Preceptors (no bill # yet)
- Another step towards increasing dental access for rural and underserved areas, this bill is to increase opportunities for training in these areas by creating a provision of tax credit to preceptors.
- Scope of Practice: Minimizing Use of the Dental Team through ITR
- This bill is to allow dental hygienists to do Interim Therapeutic Restorations (ITR), a procedure to stop decay on a temporary basis.