Arizona students experience a busy day at the State Capitol

“It’s a busy day at the capitol…” Representative Heather Carter, the Chair of the Committee on Health begins during a committee hearing in the Arizona House of Representatives. She continues to introduce us dental students and the dentists who represent the Arizona Dental Association supporting several oral health initiatives on Dental Lobby Day which took place February 13th, 2013.

It was thrilling to see the process, if only for a day. It sparked an even greater interest in me for dental advocacy. It was inspiring to see local dentists persuasively lobby for Medicaid expansion for Arizonans and the bill, HB 2513, which would enable the Board of Dental Examiners to take disciplinary action against business entities (ie. dental corporations) that interfere with a dentist’s clinical judgment. Arizona is one of the few states in the nation that permit non-licensee ownership of dental practices.

In fact during our visit, HB 2513 was scheduled for a hearing before the House Health Committee. Dr. Allison House, treasurer of the Arizona Dental Association (AzDA) and Kevin Earle, executive director of the AzDA, testified sharing their stories and explaining the dental community’s perspective as to why this bill should pass.

This bill would give the Board of Dental Examiners the ability to charge a registered business entity with “unethical conduct,” and thus permit disciplinary action to be taken. It would help ensure a dentist can remain autonomous in one’s decision making. It is a concern that some dental corporations may push treatment that is unnecessary to gain a profit. HB 2513 also eliminates the age restriction in the Dental Practice Act for a dentist to obtain a retired license, which had been arbitrarily set at 65 years of age. Let’s examine the first part of this bill in light of the hearing.

While I was not in person during the entirety of the hearing, I found the recording online and am able to report on the proceedings of the hearing by using this resource on the State Legislature’s website at www.azleg.gov. First, Mr. Earle provided some background information about the necessity of the bill. Then, Dr. House shared her personal experiences from previous work in a corporate office.

A year out of dental school, Dr. House worked as an employee dentist for a corporate entity. One day she came to work and found her usual assistant assigned to do a full day of cleanings, although the assistant was not licensed or qualified to do cleanings. Another day, Dr. House was met by a treatment plan of tooth extractions and a denture delivery. The chart was very unclear, so she investigated the case. She found that not only did an assistant make the denture, but the patient was never even seen by any of the other dentists working in the office. Dr. House refused to do the work and was fired later that week. She asks that the business entities “be held to the same standard as dentists” by the Board of Dental Examiners.

In a unanimous vote, with “do pass” recommendation the bill was moved out of the house Health Committee to continue on in the legislative process. To become a law this bill must next pass through the majority and minority caucuses, then the House floor, next to the Senate Health Committee, get passed by the full the Senate, and finally to the Governor. The Governor can then sign the bill, making it law. In Arizona, new laws take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the session.
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Getting engaged in legislative advocacy on behalf of organized dentistry is a great way to have a greater impact on our profession and our communities. It empowers us to have influence beyond the patients we see on a day to day basis. It enables us to help as many people as we can. We must find our voice and engage in pertinent issues to help mold the future of our profession. We need to prevent others from undermining our autonomy as oral health care providers and support laws that improve the health of our patients. I encourage you to attend a state Lobby Day! It was time very well spent.

~Jessica Giles, Council Associate, Professional Issues, Arizona ’16

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