2019 Advocacy and Public Health Academy at UOP -San Francisco, CA January 12th

ASDA District 11’s Advocacy and Public Health Academy was a great opportunity for students to learn about current California dental legislation and the impact these policies have in public health dentistry. Attendees had the opportunity to develop their public speaking skills during breakout sessions that simulated the experience of State and National Lobby Day. They also took part in a variety workshops and activities aimed at encouraging them to become advocates for dentistry in their communities and our country.

2018 ASDA National Lobby Day - Washington DC April 6th-10th

Last month, four of our very own CDM students, Andrea Numbers (2020), Shelby Maurice (2020), Sandy Ku (2020), and Ivana Younan (2021), along with 500 other dental students attended ADA’s annual Dentist and Student Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. Students joined with dentists from all over the nation to receive issue-specific training and learn how to effectively lobby legislators on Capitol Hill. The meeting served as a perfect opportunity to network with current and future colleagues in each state!

During their meetings with lawmakers, students and dentists urged Congress to address the following issues:

  • Student Loan Programs and the Higher Education Act: Attendees urged members of Congress to include principles important to dental students and new graduates when considering the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Among the considerations, students advocated for preserving public loan forgiveness programs and extending the period of deferment for repa  ying loans. 

  • Action for Dental Health Act:  The bill allows organizations to qualify for oral health grants administered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These grants would enable organizations to provide dental services to underserved populations. Thanks in part to ASDA's efforts, the Action for Dental Health Act passed the House of Representatives. A companion bill in the Senate is expected to be introduced by Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Attendees encouraged senators to co-sponsor the bill when it is introduced. 

  • Opioids: There are more than 130 bills in Congress addressing the opioid crisis. ASDA and the ADA lobbied for elements they believe are important to include in comprehensive bipartisan legislation. These included prescribing limits for acute pain and improving drug-monitoring programs. 

  • Dental and Optometric Care Access Act of 2017 or "DOC Access Act": The bill prohibits "non-covered services" provisions in dental and vision plans. Attendees advocated for members of the House of Representatives to co-sponsor this bill. 

  • McCarran-Ferguson repeal for health insurance: This bill would authorize the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the full range of anti-trust laws against health insurance companies engaged in anticompetitive conduct. This bill passed the House of Representatives last year. Attendees encouraged senators to co-sponsor the bill when it is introduced in the Senate. 

For more information about these issues or how to get involved:

Stay tuned for more emails and upcoming events from your ASDA student leaders!

Be an advocate: Grassroots Advocacy Day. Legislation that affects YOU

On Tuesday February 23rd, Southern California student leaders traveled to the California State Capitol, Sacramento, to attend Grassroots Advocacy Day.  A day dedicated to the advocacy of important issues, priorities and legislation supported by the CDA and dentists across California.

WesternU College of Dental Medicine was present at Grassroots Advocacy Day along with dental students from Loma Linda University, University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles. 

As dental students, our goal was to meet with State Senators and Assembly Members to seek support for currently sponsored legislation and assembly bills that will help shape the future of dentistry and public health. 

California State Capital Rotunda in Sacramento.

California State Capital Rotunda in Sacramento.

For example, AB 2485 introduced by Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D) to restructure provisions of the existing California Dental Corps Loan Repayment Program of 2002 was a topic of much discussion. 

Currently, the CDCLRP has more than $1.5 million available to grant in scholarships for those willing to work in underserved communities. However, due to unnecessary restrictive provisions, it is difficult for applicants to qualify for the program therefore these funds have remained untouched. If passed by the Legislature, AB 2485 will address these barriers such as lifting restrictions against applicants who have received other grants or scholarships in the past thereby encouraging interested students to apply.  Western University students received unanimous verbal support for this bill from State Senator Connie Leyva’s (D) office, Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez’s (D) office and Assembly Member Marc Steinorth (R) and will continue to follow up with them.

Advocating for dental health policy couldn’t be complete without addressing the lack of access to care and the low dental reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal/Denti-Cal providers. 

According to the Department of Health Care Services, half of all children and one third of adults in California are now Medi-Cal eligible. Furthermore, since 2008, five million more Californians have enrolled in Denti-Cal, and yet the number of Denti-Cal providers has declined 15 percent. 

Along side CDA, we as dental students and future dentists, urged the state to develop sustainable funding structures for these programs and continue making Denti-Cal a priority. We also recognized and thanked legislators for their efforts in supporting the agreement reached with the federal government known as the Medicaid waver process at the end of 2015.  This Medicaid waver will grant California $740 million in federal money to address Denti-Cal’s deficiencies and incentivize preventative care at an early age.

Yet another controversial topic at the State Capital was the tobacco tax legislation introduced by the Save Lives California coalition.

The legislation is simple: it advocates for a tax increase on tobacco products as an attempt to save lives.  Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable deaths in California, and it claims more than 40,000 lives each year, costing the state more than $13 billion annually in medical expenses, which includes $3.5 billion in Medi-Cal costs.

Is there a solution to the increasing cost of health care for tobacco related illness and access to affordable care with an emphasis on education and prevention?

According to the state’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office a two dollar tax increase per pack of cigarettes will reduce smoking by 15 percent and will raise $1.5 billion in new revenues that will ultimately fund the Medi-Cal/Denti-Cal program, state oral health programs, research and prevention. 

As future health providers, we showed support for the tobacco tax legislation and urged state representatives to see the overwhelming health benefits of this proposal.  As advocates of the tobacco tax we faced challenging remarks by both Assembly Member Marc Steinorth (R) and State Senator Mike Morrell (R) as they were concerned with the long-term source of funding for programs relying on tobacco tax revenue following the decline of tobacco consumers. 

It is our challenge as health care advocates to emphasize the importance of lives saved for however long revenues remain.  We recognize that this is not a long-term solution to funding public health care programs, but merely an attempt to reduce the unnecessary health care burden posed by preventable illnesses. 

Advocacy day at the State Capital ended with an optimistic moral, and a fierce new understanding of the impact our collective voices and experiences can have on changing and reshaping public policy.

Southern California student leaders at the California Assembly Chamber.