Be Aware, Be Present, Be Involved

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michael-varleyhrBy Michael R. Varley, D.D.S., M.S., CDA President
From the Summer 2016 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

What really constitutes a strong association that will endure the test of time? That will be financially stable? What is the definition of success for a not-for-profit organization? As I proudly accept my new role as your CDA president, I have spent a great deal of time pondering these questions. The answer to me is obvious: A strong organization is not defined by the number of endorsements it has or the amount saved in reserves; a strong organization is defined by having a strong market share of members and more importantly, having member involvement.

One of the missions of the CDA is advocacy—a semi-invisible yet crucial member benefit that our association provides for dentists.

The CDA has been heavily involved protecting us, as dentists, in the legislative and regulatory arenas. While we’re working in our dental offices, the wheels of advocacy continue to turn. In reality, this value is sometimes hard to see. But if the CDA were not at the state Capitol each day, at stakeholder meetings each month and at Colorado Dental Board meetings each quarter, your practice would not be the same.

The American Medical Association has a slim 15% membership market share representation. How much political impact do you think the AMA had when the Affordable Health Care Act came down the pike? Please be reminded that this 2,400 page bill went virtually without amendment.

The CDA is different. Because of you, the CDA has a membership market share representation of just below 70%. You are directly responsible for our future and for maintaining the strength of our great association.

The CDA has garnered a tremendous amount of respect at the state legislature because of tireless work by our lobbyist and staff team. The CDA is indeed the leading voice on oral healthcare topics in the state. In June and July of this year, the Colorado Dental Political Action Committee (CODPAC) conducts an extensive interview process with state legislators. Led by CODPAC Chair Dr. Jeff Hurst, this process plays a key role in elevating the CDA’s influence and prominence at the state Capitol. Investing in educating members of the state legislature and building relationships with them is vital to the CDA and ultimately the success of the dental profession’s future.

Educating legislators is about conveying the genuine care dental teams give to their patients every day. It’s about sharing our passion for oral health and quality care. It’s about reminding legislators that dentists are small business owners who face the same challenges as any other small business including care for their employees. And it’s about providing stories regarding the good the profession has done for Colorado communities. This builds goodwill with legislators. The CDA is actively advancing oral healthcare through legislation involving Medicaid, preceptorships, loan forgiveness and access-to-care. Policymakers are noticing our hard work and joining our efforts that will benefit the dental profession and patients in the future.

Have you wondered why workforce/dental team issues have not been a prominent fight in Colorado, yet have been part of the central legislative agendas in 19 other states? Have you wondered why dentist rating systems, the systems that rate dentists poorly for not entering into patient-compromising contracts, have not perpetuated? It is due to the aggressive, defensive and proactive efforts of the CDA’s advocacy team.

These efforts are greatly aided by member contributions to the American Dental Association Political Action Committee, CODPAC and the Colorado Small Donor Committee—which all drive the advocacy process toward your political goals.

The next item on the CDA’s legislative agenda will be improving access-to-care by insurance reform. The management of this topic would be best accomplished through your input, your comments and your insights as we seek to address existing frustrations. This problem will not be solved overnight. Patience, determination, perseverance and diligence will be required.

Be aware, be present and be involved in YOUR association. The CDA is working for you, and as your new CDA president, I welcome your participation!