KDA Today

KDA Today

For Immediate Release

Date: Oct 22nd, 2018
Contact: Dr. Bill Lee
Phone: 800-292-1855
Email: kdapresident1819@gmail.com

Step Up and Do Your Part to Save the Future of Organized Dentistry in Kentucky

Nope, I’m not gonna do it. For my first article, I could tell you how excited I am to be your president and list all the good things I see coming in the year ahead. I’ll have to save that for another article.

This article is about membership. Our membership numbers are but a whisper of what they should be. The total number of dentists practicing in Kentucky is virtually unchanged over the last five years; 2,304 dentists in 2013 to 2,302 in 2017. Yet, members in the KDA have dropped from 1,341 to 1,182; market share was 58.2% in 2013 and 51.3% in 2017. We have a real chance of dropping below 50% by the end of this year.

Our membership erosion is not limited to one or two target markets, but includes all groups - young, old, specialist, general practitioner, gender, minority, faculty - you name it. The KDA, today, is not the one strong, united voice for our profession that it used to be. Unfortunately, there is no one else to be that voice.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, talks about reaching a point where no matter what you do, you cannot recover. At 50% membership, there is no doubt in my mind that we are at a tipping point. Hopefully, we haven’t passed it.

The KDA has been at the table for everything involving dentistry. You should be very proud of your leadership and how they represent you. I know I am. Much of their work gets unnoticed and therefore unappreciated. During my year, I hope to better highlight the ongoing involvement of your leadership.

You have seen from the KDA the response to the absurdity of the MyRewards implementation. You have seen our pleas to restore benefits to those 500,000 Kentuckians who so abruptly had their Medicaid benefits terminated. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Although the KDA has been at the table, there are those who want to put dentistry on the table, on the menu. For reasons that don’t make sense, dentistry is considered as an “optional” benefit, despite the overwhelming evidence that good oral health is key to good general health.

With only a 50% membership market share, as your leadership tries to influence the decision makers in Kentucky, it’s easy for those individuals to rationalize that at least the other half of the dentists in the state don’t feel that way. True or not, without that strong, united voice, we are easy to ignore. Dentistry remains “optional”.

As the Legislature meets this winter, a provider tax will be on the agenda and the KDA will, once again, be at the table. As of this writing, your leadership is already working on options and being very proactive to what may or may not occur. In California, due to a push from a very strong CDA, a soda/sugar tax referendum will be placed on the 2020 ballot that, if passed, could generate $2-3 Billion annually to be put back into dental and medical benefits - that’s with a B. A soda/sugar tax discussion has developed in Kentucky and the KDA has been and will continue to be a big part of that discussion. Water fluoridation and the Dental Practice Act are also on the table, and the KDA will be there.

However, at 50%, our voice is but a whisper. We need to push away from this tipping point. So, how do we do it? Or, rather, how do you do it? The ADA and the KDA have done everything they can. Now it up to you. Individually.

I have served in the KDA for quite a while and I will often hear, “If you don’t do this or that, then I won’t join!” Well, we’re way past that scenario. There won’t be anything we can do unless you do join. And bring a colleague.
There are so many benefits to membership - something for everyone. But, not every member will avail themselves. Some will rationalize that unused benefits are a waste of their dues dollars and use that as their reason for not being a member. In years past, a dentist could get away with this and not be hurt. Not anymore.

The one thing the KDA can do as a group is advocate for the good of dentistry. And the KDA does it well. But at 50% market share, we go unnoticed. Non-members can no longer ride the coattails of the KDA. They must step up to the plate and contribute; if they contribute nothing else, their membership gives this organization the strength it needs to serve and protect our profession. But the KDA has done everything it can to reach out to these non-members. Now it’s up to you, as individuals.

Do you have a colleague down the street who is a non-member? Or a classmate? Or someone who shares a carpool with you? Ask/encourage/plead with them to join. Answer their questions. Overcome their objections. Find a way to recruit them as a member.

Honestly, my batting average currently is 500. About half of those I’ve talked to have joined, the others didn’t. But think, if every KDA member individually recruited one non-member and 50% joined, we would be a healthy organization. Understand, the dues dollar is important, but right now, the membership number is critical.

Not everyone has extra time. Currently, I’m working part-time and within a year, I’ll be retired from clinical dentistry. I have the time and the energy to advocate for our profession. Understand that, say five years from now, I won’t be affected if the dentists of Kentucky are paying a percentage of their gross income as a provider tax or if there are mid-level providers competing for their patients. But you will be affected, as will every practicing dentist in Kentucky.

I will do what I can to prevent these things from happening. Even with a strong, united voice we may not change everything. However, with only 50% market share, we won’t be heard. In my mind, right now in Kentucky, advocacy is the most important benefit of the KDA. We are now at that tipping point and risk losing the ability to be an effective advocate for dentistry.

In my talk to the House of Delegates, my focus was on change. Change is slow, until it isn’t. Change is slow…until it isn’t. Change has been slow in Kentucky. Not now. I’m asking each of you to recruit a non-member. If you get a yes, click on www.kyda.org and click the JOIN button, or call the KDA at 1-800-292-1855.

Do it for all of us. Let’s make that change happen!

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