***UPDATED: June 18, 2013*** At last month’s Washington Leadership Conference, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed frustration about the growing problem of access to dental care in America, stating to dental industry leaders that he hopes “to work with you to address this very serious issue.” Finally there has been rapid follow-through by a politician! In a recent letter, the American Dental Association thanked Sen. Sanders for offering critical oral health provisions in legislation to reauthorize the landmark Older Americans Act. The bill would provide grants so that national dental programs could provide dental care to low income individuals free of charge. Additionally, another provision in his OAA reauthorization bill includes dental expenses, requiring the Secretary of Labor to revise the Experimental Price Index for the Elderly, or the CPI-E. A June 19th Senate hearing on the Older Americans Act has been called to address hunger and poverty.
The leaders of the dental industry voiced concerns and frustrations with political figures in the nation’s capital at the annual Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) last month. More than 500 dentists and state dental leaders attended the event to discuss frustrations and attempt to compromise. Questions on health reform, taxes, budget, and other issues were posed to congressional speakers with many agreeing on the state of the problems; however talk of solutions was another story.
According to the ADA News article, “Dental leaders air concerns with legislators,” Dr. Joseph Gay told Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. and former dentist, that the WLC participants were there to hold lawmakers accountable because “right now, Congress isn’t doing its job.” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho who also practiced dentistry, admitted that Congress isn’t getting much done due to a “financial problem,” claiming there are no easy answers right now. He also claimed that it is very difficult for successful businesspeople to work with Congress growing more partisan by the minute. Everyone agreed that there is a major oral health care crisis across the country and that access to dental care is a huge contributor. A solution to that problem wasn’t discussed though.
Rep. Gosar stated that he is very proud to be a dentist because individuals in that profession are “problem solvers,” but the political world is very frustrating, especially in terms of budget agreements. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass, hit the nail on the head in my opinion, stating that Washington is so politically charged that it’s paralyzed. There’s no doubt that the dental industry is feeling the effects of the political tug-of-war that is currently at a deadlock, and I believe most industries feel it too. From what I can gather, it seems as if Congress is well aware of the issues but is not quick to offer up any solutions, just excuses. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stated that he has plans to reintroduce dental legislation offered in the last Congress, expressing hope to continue working on this very serious issue.