by: Jordan Komyathy, University of Detroit Mercy
One thing that we dental students don’t hear about much in school is the influence that politics have on our profession. In school, we are in our own little bubble where dentistry is perfecting your skills, having the ability to treatment plan, and communicating well with our patients. During my time in ASDA, I have learned that dentistry is a whole lot more than what they teach us in school. There are third party players like insurance companies, healthcare companies, governments, and medical personnel that impact how we treat our patients. At State Lobby Day in Lansing, I realized how important it is to be aware of the laws that influence our profession, and how important it is for me to voice my opinion about these laws.
This past February I went to Lansing to lobby on behalf of the Michigan Dental Association with a few of my colleagues. We lobbied on two issues: Healthy Kids Dental and student loan debt. Healthy Kids Dental is an insurance program for children whose parents cannot afford dental coverage. It is backed by Delta Dental of Michigan and reimburses dentists at a higher rate than Medicaid, which makes private practice dentists more apt to provide care to these patients. Right now, children in all Michigan counties except for Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne are covered. We lobbied to have the three remaining counties added to the budget for this coming year. The other point we discussed with legislators was student loan debt. There is currently no student loan legislation under consideration so our intent was to draw attention to the high interest rates and significant debt that today’s dental students endure. Upon graduation, dentists on average are burdened with an average of $250k in debt while attempting to find a job, establish credit, buy a house, and start a family. With this in mind, we made the case for tax deductions on loan payback after graduation. It was a great experience to be able to talk to legislators about the issues facing us directly that we are so passionate about.
This was my second time attending State Lobby Day. I found that my nervousness faded, but my excitement did not. Much like my first year, I enjoyed learning more about current legislation as well as the legislative process in general. I also found that speaking to politicians who aren’t too familiar with the dental field was a great way to develop my presentation skills. I believe that this will help me as I begin to see my first patients. Getting outside of my dental school bubble and in to life outside of school allowed me to feel a sense of purpose while gaining a better understanding of the forces that could shape my future.