CDA supports, protects dentistry in 2015

CDA is helping member dentists meet today's challenges of practicing the way they want, providing excellent care to their patients and giving back to their communities.

Here are highlights of those achievements in 2015.

In June, a special CDA House of Delegates approved a business plan for The Dentists Service Company, TDSC. This company will support members with the business side of their practices, helping them be more competitive and efficient. While ensuring all clinical-care decisions and practice ownership remain with dentists, TDSC plans to offer group purchasing of supplies, practice advising, marketing, human resources and assistance with forming group practices.

In addition, CDA Practice Support remains a top member benefit, offering more than 600 online resources and responding to 25,000 calls this year alone. CDA Practice Support provided clarity for members, either through cda.org/practicesupport or over the phone, on a variety of issues ranging from the new sick leave law and changing Federal Communications Commission regulations regarding billing phone calls to patients to prescription drug updates and HIPAA compliance. To find resources on these topics and more, visit cda.org/practicesupport.

"Providing resources that help dentists serve their patients to the best of their abilities is a top priority for CDA and that is why we are launching TDSC, and as a member benefit, continue to offer CDA Practice Support resources," said CDA President Ken Wallis, DDS.

Protecting dental practices

The founding of TDSC coincides with another significant milestone as TDIC celebrated its 35th year of protecting member dentists and their practices with a comprehensive suite of insurance products. And TDIC's quality insurance products and superior service were again reflected by AM Best's "excellent" rating, earning an "A" for 21 consecutive years. The A.M. Best Company rating includes comparisons to peers and industry standards as well as assessments of operating plans, philosophy and management.

TDIC Board Chair Steven Kend, DDS, said the 21 consecutive years of A ratings speak to the company's financial strength and its mission to provide policyholders with the best value insurance products and related services.

"These consistent 'excellent' ratings truly reflect TDIC's quality products and the ability to protect dentists better than any other insurance company," Kend said. "It's the reason TDIC is trusted by more than 18,000 dentists."

Educating future dentists

To help members enhance their knowledge and skills, the biannual CDA Presents the Art and Science of Dentistry continues to uphold its reputation as one of the best dental conventions in the country, featuring the latest technology and products along with popular educational programs to overflow crowds. Arthur Dugoni, DDS, served as a guest speaker to future dentists at CDA Presents in San Francisco, which drew strong attendance from dental students. During his speech at the event, Dugoni challenged the dental students to do more than practice dentistry after they graduate. He urged them to make a difference in their profession and in their communities.

"Congratulations, you're the best of the best. You've been elected to leadership positions, but you've become very special partners in the fraternity of educated people who truly will and can make a difference; who truly can live a life that matters," Dugoni said at the CDA student networking event. "You have to live beyond the nine-by-nine operatory and your high-speed handpiece."

Advocating on behalf of dentistry

Part of living beyond the operatory is advocating on behalf of the profession. With combined efforts in advocacy and giving back to communities, CDA members worked to enhance the image of the profession with the public, media and elected officials across the state. Advocating on behalf of members before the Legislature, which now includes Assemblymember Jim Wood, DDS, CDA volunteers testified about the challenges of providing care in the Denti-Cal program, which has among the lowest reimbursement rates in the nation. Prior to joining the Legislature, Wood practiced dentistry for 27 years and was a Denti-Cal provider. He estimates that in his early years of practice, the vast majority of his patients were in the Denti-Cal program. But it slowly became more difficult to participate as a provider in the network because reimbursement rates were roughly 35 percent of the cost of providing care at his practice.

"You cannot do that very long and have a viable practice," Wood said.

It is even more difficult for new dentists, limiting their ability to join the program early in their careers.

"Graduating classes just out of (dental) school now face debt that's in the hundreds of thousands, which leads to thousands in monthly payments. Do the math and realize what kind of income it takes to make those monthly payments and cover living expenses," Wood said.

CDA successfully advocated for lawmakers to reverse a 10 percent Denti-Cal reimbursement rate cut, making dentists the only health care providers to receive this reversal in this year's state budget. Despite this reversal, there is still much work to be done to make the Denti-Cal program viable for providers and CDA will continue its work in this area throughout 2016.

Thanks to CDA's advocacy efforts, the organization also blocked an insurance industry bill that would have placed an unfair burden on dentists and delayed access to care for patients. AB 533 had a well-intentioned goal of addressing "balance billing" of patients who may receive unexpected billing amounts after receiving care at a facility, such as a hospital, that is a part of their insurance plan's network but from an out-of-network provider who contracts with the facility. However, amendments made to the bill in the waning days of the legislative session would have limited payments to Medicare rates for out-of-network providers in these cases and required providers to go through a yet-to-be-determined dispute resolution process to collect additional payment, unless the patient goes through a three-day waiting period.

Given that many dental procedures are not tied to Medicare rates, the bill as amended created a variety of problems for dentists. CDA launched an intensive lobbying effort and through grassroots contact by CDA members with legislators in the final days of the session, the bill failed to pass in a vote of the full state Assembly, falling three votes short of the majority needed.

After years of advocating, CDA welcomed the former New York state dental director, Jayanth Kumar, DDS, MPH, to California this year as the new state dental director, a position that will give a voice to the importance of oral health within state government. Kumar comes to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) with more than 25 years of experience in the New York State Bureau of Dental Health. He has held the positions of state dental director and acting director since 2009 and is responsible for developing the first comprehensive state oral health plan for New York.

Kumar will direct and manage the oral health program in the CDPH and, in collaboration with the Department of Health Care Services, provide leadership in developing and implementing innovative strategies and policies to reduce oral health disparities in California. In addition to a state oral health plan, Kumar will also be responsible for establishing prevention and oral health education projects and working to secure funding for prevention-focused oral health programs, particularly for children.

CDA also took a lead role this year in the new Save Lives California coalition, dedicated to reducing tobacco consumption and putting more resources in health care programs. In October, the coalition filed its final version of a ballot measure for the November 2016 election to raise the state's tobacco tax by $2 per pack. The $2-per-pack tax increase proposed by the Save Lives California coalition will discourage smoking and raise funds that will help offset the more than $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars annually used to treat Medi-Cal patients with tobacco-related illnesses and other diseases, along with $30 million every year to support oral health. California once led the nation in curbing tobacco use, which remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death, but the state's current tax of 87 cents per pack has fallen to 35th among the 50 states. All but one state in the country has raised their cigarette tax since California's last hike in 1998.

Improving oral health

Continuing to impact lives throughout the state, thousands of CDA members, their staff and family members, as well as hundreds of dental students volunteered at two CDA Cares events in 2015. CDA Cares shines a spotlight on the good work dentists do in communities across California. At the most recent CDA Cares volunteer dental program, dentists provided more than $1.9 million in charitable dental services to 2,099 people Oct. 2-3 in Fresno. During the two-day event, dentists and dental professionals provided 14,620 dental procedures, including fillings, extractions, cleanings and oral health education. Volunteer technicians in the clinic's dental lab area worked to provide 291 complete and partial dentures and repairs.

More than 1,300 volunteers donated their time and services at the event, including 708 health professionals - dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, nurses and lab technicians - as well as hundreds of community volunteers who assisted with registration, translation, data entry and escorting patients. Since CDA Cares began, 16,000 people have had their smiles restored and have better employment opportunities.

Fighting for fairness and transparency with dental plans remains a priority for CDA. In late September, a CDA-sponsored law required dental plans to submit their first reports to state insurance regulators as the process begins to establish standards for how much dental plans need to spend on beneficiaries rather than profit.

CDA also continues the legal battle against Delta Dental in its attempt to lower Delta Premier reimbursement fees. For almost two years, CDA successfully held off cuts to providers of 8 to 12 percent. And the organization will continue its work until dental plans recognize the importance of their provider networks.

These are just a few of the significant accomplishments made possible with support from membership, which has grown this year to more than 26,000 strong. As a reflection of CDA's diverse membership and commitment to serving all dentists in a variety of practice settings, the ADA recognized CDA with three membership awards, including greatest percentage of women dentists, diverse members and new dentists.

Whether it's improving the oral health of the underserved at CDA Cares, testifying before the Legislature, publishing a timely article in the CDA Journal, hosting a popular speaker at CDA Presents or providing Practice Support resources to help make a dentist's job easier, CDA has members in mind every step of the way.

Related Items

CDA Practice Support is designed to help dentists navigate the business side of dentistry with ease, and it is chock-full of valuable resources to help them run their practices. Here are the top 10 CDA Practice Support resources of 2015 in the categories of practice management, employment practices, dental benefit plans and regulatory compliance.

Online dues renewal for CDA members is now open. Members can renew their dues in full or enroll in the electronic dues payment program (EDP) and pay in equal monthly installments automatically deducted from a designated checking account.