NYSDA 2019 #COLUMBIASTYLE
The New York State Dental Association Advocacy Day (NYSDA) is a conference hosted since 2013 to give dental students a preview of the lobbying process with their state representatives There are two parts to the event, an educational phase on day one, and a lobbying phase on day two. During the first day, NYSDA leaders provide a brief overview of proposed legislation supported by the ADA, and also provide an introduction to the lobbying process. At this time, experienced dental professionals may voice their concerns about the portions of legislation they may find problematic. Students, dentists, and ADA affiliates are also allocated into small groups and engage in round table discussion in preparation for legislative office visits. Social events follow the meeting to provide a casual environment for networking between students and dentists.
Lobbying for this years NYSDA event consisted of four key issues: dental scope of practice, standardizing dental hygienist certifications, assignment of insurance benefits, and charity funding. In 2001, legislation was amended to include the statement “restoring and maintaining oral health” in regards to the scope of dental practice. This alteration was intended to expand the definition of the practice of dentistry. However, this has been misinterpreted to limit dental practice to “just teeth” which is only one part of regularly practiced dentistry. As a result, a dentist may not be able to treat common problems such as TMJ disorder, sleep apnea, or oral lesions without risk of violating their scope of practice. The proposed bill would eliminate the alteration from 2001.
The second topic deals with the licensing title of dental assistants in the state of New York. Currently, an individual who completes dental assistant training and corresponding examinations in New York is given the title of “certified dental assistant”. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is a separate organization unaffiliated with New York that conducts an certification process that also gives individuals who complete the training the title of “certified dental assistant”. However, the DANB trademarked title is not recognized in New York and does not allow an individual to legally practice in the state. This overlap leads to confusion for employers during the hiring process as they are unsure of which certification applicants hold. Improperly certified dental assistants may not be competent to work on patients due and can be a hazard to public safety. The discussed bill would change the New York state protected licensing title to “registered dental assistant” to ameliorate the problem.
The third issue deals with insurance companies and assignment of benefits. Currently, insurers give patients the option to see out of network providers and receive reimbursement for the procedures at a later date. This is problematic, as the patient may not transfer the check back to the dentist after treatment is performed, leaving the patient with both money and restored dental health. To avoid this, patients may be required to pay for expensive treatments upfront which can put financial strain on their finances and families. Additionally, this process requires patients to read and understand dental insurance contracts in order to be properly reimbursed. A second option requires patients to find an in network provider which becomes increasingly difficult for individuals located in rural areas or in need of a specialist. The proposed bill would allow patients to assign benefits directly to out of network healthcare providers. This would no longer result in uncompensated dentists, and patients holding large sums of money in collateral while waiting for insurance reimbursements.
The final item on the agenda requested funding for the NYSDA Charitable Grant Program. This program is in it fifth year and has provided very low or no cost dental services to 829 patients at 20 events. These events have allowed patients in many underserved areas to find a dental home and provider that they can visit routinely for care. The program has noticeably reduced dental related emergency room visits in participating areas. This leads to both improved patient health and experience, decreased opioid prescriptions, and reduced state medical spending. NYSDA requested $250,000 to continue the program in 2019.
Lobbying with NYSDA was nothing short of an amazing experience. The best part of the event is how much students are involved: This is not merely just a day of shadowing dentists. Government officials and their staffers directly relied on us, the students, to explain what legislation should be incorporated into law. Dentist mentors were present to step in with additional anecdotes and facts to support our arguments. Following our meticulous planning and strategizing, almost every congressional office verbally committed to backing all four pieces of legislation.
For those who are interested in lobbying in the future, our best advice would be to relax and become excited for the experience; There is no need to be nervous! You will find immediately after your first congressional appointment that each representative is very kind, and that lobbying is conversational, not argumentative. Some students even had the chance to speak alongside distinguished ADA leaders, such as president-elect, Dr. Chad Gehani, a CDM alumni. The dentists at the meeting are very supportive of the students, and networking with them was a very rewarding experience.
Sanam Desai and Richard Handal, Columbia '21
SD: ASDA Social Committee and New Student Orientation Committee
RH: Michael Yuan Orthodontic Society and ASDA