KDA Today

KDA Today

For Immediate Release

Date: Sep 12th, 2016
Contact: Richard A. Whitehouse
Phone: 800-292-1855
Email: info@kyda.org

Lets Move!

Organized dentistry is at a crossroads. The profession sometimes seems challenged from every corner at once these days and the last thing we can afford to do is stand idly by. At a time when professions seems to have been hijacked by bureaucrats and the courts, members of the dental profession must determine whether they will continue to stand as a profession or be relegated to the realm of vocation. This question will define both dentists and organized dentistry and determine the place of your profession in the overall delivery of healthcare in this country.

If you’ve ever heard me speak, you may have heard me liken our situation to that of a family during the Civil War who would sometimes enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking a battle. In this analogy, the dental profession represents the family and the battle represents changes in the healthcare delivery system. Dentists used to be able to come off their hill when they didn’t approve of something, voice their objection, and go back up the hill to finish their sandwich. In recent years, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act and changes to Medicaid delivery, dentists have been more often pulled off the hill and drawn into the fray. On occasion, it seems that opponents in the public policy arena have even eaten their picnic lunch.

Like the profession itself, the KDA is faced with challenges to the status quo. Our leadership has responded to these challenges by focusing on strategic goals that demonstrate the value of KDA membership. The vision of these goals is to advance the profession while improving oral health in the commonwealth. One of these goals is advocacy. I believe the direction of this profession and the very level of satisfaction for those in it will be directly related to the effort we can put into mobilizing organized dentistry in the next few years.

We have made great strides to better represent the profession while serving as a resource to policymakers interested in expanding access to dental care and improving oral health. But, we have yet to fully realize the impact of some government decisions on the profession from the Affordable Care act to the Supreme Court decision regarding professional self-regulation in North Carolina. But, the KDA is working to minimize any adverse effect of these decisions upon dentists and their patients.

Recently, we were quickly called to brief members and stakeholders on our reaction to Governor Bevin’s proposed 1115 waiver and Kentucky HEALTH (Help Engage and Achieve Long Term Health) program. On June 22nd, Governor Bevin announced that this proposal that would effectively eliminate adult dental coverage from the standard Medicaid benefit package. The program would create a system emphasizing prevention, rewarding behaviors promoting wellness, and decreasing the costs of healthcare across the commonwealth. However, the exclusion of dental coverage in the standard plan seems to run contrary to the stated objectives of the proposal. We believe the inclusion of dental benefits in the standard benefit package is in keeping with the underlying goals of the new Kentucky HEALTH program.

KDA members and stakeholders gathered recently at scheduled hearings in Bowling Green, Frankfort and Hazard to gather feedback on this proposal. We were happy to provide briefs to many of those providing testimony and will provide written comment on the proposal.

Organized dentistry supports the administration’s efforts to:
· Reform the Medicaid program and improve oral health in Kentucky
· Create a sustainable delivery model for our most vulnerable citizens
· Lower the costs involved in healthcare delivery
· Promote wellness and early intervention of infection, disease and chronic conditions
· Reward behaviors that lead to better health outcomes

Accordingly, organized dentistry supports the Kentucky HEALTH concept. But, we would like to see the dental benefit included as part of the standard plan. Making dental care optional coverage acquired only through rewards will diminish the overall state of health for Kentucky citizens and ultimately result in higher costs for health care.

The KDA needs everyone to put their sandwich down and come down off the hill to help your profession. We need to tell Frankfort that we will support transformation of the existing delivery system into one that is sustainable and provides greater accountability. But, it is critical that policymakers recognize:
· Good oral health is integral to overall health.
· Patient outcomes are improved when dentists work with existing providers.
· Costs of healthcare delivery are minimized when patients see dentists.

Organized dentistry needs to be part of the solution. Dentists can work with stakeholders, and policymakers to control costs and improve access to care. Including dental coverage as a standard benefit increases access to care while achieving the stated goals of Kentucky HEALTH in terms of cost savings, early identification of disease and general wellness. But, if approved in its current form, the barrier of making dental coverage optional will result in increased costs and poor health outcomes. Policymakers must recognize that good oral health has a positive impact on economic development and self-esteem. A healthy smile results in a more confident workforce of individuals free from dental pain that can decrease productivity.

Moreover, including dental coverage in the Kentucky HEALTH proposal as a standard benefit fulfills the stated purpose of the Kentucky HEALTH plan to reduce total Medicaid enrollment over time by moving individuals to commercial insurance plans. Good oral health leads to greater self-esteem and can be directly tied to economic development by creating a healthier work force.

I often say is that organized dentistry must be mobilized dentistry. Mobility implies movement and we certainly need to move now. So, the KDA is asking ask you and your professional colleagues to take action. You have the opportunity to offer input on the Kentucky HEALTH proposal, if you agree it is important to include dental coverage as part of the standard benefit. Please write Commissioner Stephen Miller, Department for Medicaid Services, 275 E. Main Street, Frankfort, KY 40621 or e-mail kykealth.gov.

Let’s move and make your voice heard in Frankfort!

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