KDA Today

KDA Today

For Immediate Release

Date: Aug 18th, 2017
Contact: Richard A. Whitehouse
Phone: 800-292-1855
Email: info@kyda.org

What a Long, Strange Trip Its Been!

Congratulations to Dr. Bill Collins as he completes the longest presidency in KDA history!

Dr. Collins is a great fan of rock & roll – and he also enjoys a good quote. So, I know when thinking of these last 17 months, he must be reminded of the line from the song Truckn’ by the Grateful Dead which goes “lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

He often reminds me that Kentucky politics is unique. However, while there are undoubtedly idiosyncrasies to the practice of politics in the commonwealth, one thing remains constant (besides money). It’s about people.

The ability to work with people is the key to success in any walk of life. Back in Columbus, Ohio, they often quote former OSU football coach, Woody Hayes. He’s attributed with often having said, “You win with people.” Along with building a team of good people, you also need a good plan and the opportunity to execute it. This is not always easy. It can get messy. And, it doesn’t always work. But, whether your view of the political process is sausage factory or swamp to be drained, it is the only path to address the many issues impacting organized dentistry.

Groucho Marx famously defined politics as the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. But, in our political undertakings, I would rather believe that we might actually accomplish something working together and within the tri-partite structure of our association. I think we have made progress when we have clearly identified our challenges and taken steps to address them as a team focused on our collective mission and goals.

In my initial conversations with Dr. Collins, he shared his thoughts on pursuing our strategic plan by increasing the involvement of officers and others advocating for KDA in Frankfort. Involving people in their profession and the political process often requires them to make sacrifices in terms of time away from their practice and family. We are a volunteer organization and depend upon our officers and members to make these sacrifices in order to give back to their profession and ultimately turn it over to a new generation. This is one of the hallmarks of any profession and I thank all of you who have provided valuable leadership to your local societies and the KDA.

Another challenge for any volunteer organization is setting unrealistic expectations. I believe we must always aim high. But, we must also remember that when we delve into politics and policy, we are not dealing in an exact science. This challenge can frustrate volunteers and leaders who sacrifice their time without immediate return and sometimes an unexpected outcome. When I try to explain this to members who have been trained in the hard sciences, I harken back to my days of teaching graduate students organizational ethics and constitutional law. Rather than being a scientific world of “diagnose and treat,” the political world is often made up of “tragic choices” and “wicked problems.” Tragic choices are those in which one goal may actually conflict with another. Wicked problems are ones that resist quick or easy resolution and may never be completely eliminated. My point in reducing a semester of lectures to a few lines here is to say simply that we must not be frustrated when it seems we are not making a difference. We must continue to work toward our goals even when we don’t see immediate results. After all, politics is a soft science and a long game.

Although, the administration has promised systemic changes that will lessen the adverse impact of Medicaid issues on providers, we have been unable to generate meaningful support for a fee floor or prior-authorization reform. We have not been granted our request for improved data collection on provider workforce, or language to protect providers in case of MCO bankruptcy. Most of these decisions were based upon a lack of state resources, MCO contractual relationships, and federal law.
Nonetheless, we have successfully advanced legislation enhancing the notice provisions of MCO’s making material changes to their contracts with providers as well as expanding appeals provisions for denial of claims. From denturists to mid-level providers, we have held off attempts of unskilled or uneducated groups to place our fellow citizens at risk in the name of increasing access to care. We have worked to actually expand access to care by supporting the introduction of collaborative initiatives such as community dental health coordinators and public health registered dental hygienists. We have also seen the generosity of the profession demonstrated through many charitable efforts. But, much remains to be done to see improvement in oral health outcomes around the commonwealth.

We continue to work for providers to level an uneven playing field with the insurance industry through support of the McCarran-Ferguson Act that would remove the industry’s exemption from federal anti-trust law. We also support federal legislation to address the challenge our members face regarding the issue of non-covered services. And, we strive to give our members timely and relevant information through various channels in order to assist them in their business and practice decisions.

What a long, strange trip it has been. Everyone at the KDA wishes Dr. Collins well in his future endeavors. We have all gained a better understanding of the dental profession and Kentucky through his leadership and tenure on the board. And, we thank him for his service to organized dentistry as our work continues.

We must continue to strengthen our relationships with the dental schools and students, young dentists, and those who practice in all business settings and specialties. We need to be open to working with partners with whom we may not always agree, but share a mutual interest in the overall health of Kentucky citizens. And, as an organization, we must strengthen the connection between Kentucky dentists and their local societies. This may require our association to recognize that the profession itself is changing and, to be relevant, we too must change.

The coming months will see board reorganization as a result of the US Supreme Court case involving the North Carolina Board of Dentistry. We have been at the table with the administration to discuss the concerns of our members in order to fashion a plan that serves the members of the dental profession and the patients they serve.

We’ll see both a special session of the legislature on tax reform and a general session in 2018 that will include many issues of interest to our membership, the profession, and patients. Medicaid remains a prominent part of the political dialog and policy discussion as we anticipate approval of the governor’s 1115 waiver. As the next legislative session begins, we will have in place an agenda continuing much of the work we have begun in the last few years as well as responding to new issues that always arise. In doing so, we will serve under a new president, but with the same strategic goals of advocating for dentistry in the commonwealth, serving and supporting the needs and success of members, promoting oral health through community service and public relations, and leading the profession through the ADA tri-partite structure.

In addition to our volunteer leaders, we are fortunate to have a small but mighty professional staff that helps execute the vision of our governing board and work with our volunteer members to deliver tangible results. Todd, Melissa, and Janet deserve great praise for their ability to get the job done. We should thank them for their hard work.

On behalf of the KDA staff, we have enjoyed the opportunity to work with Dr. Collins. We welcome our new president, Dr. Ansley Depp and look forward to her upcoming presidency. She will no doubt bring her own ideas and energy to organized dentistry and build upon the foundation that has been laid through passage of our KDA strategic plan. We’re anxious to continue the KDA journey with her.

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