Dear Minnesota Dental Association Member:
With the legislative session underway, we want you to be fully informed on the MDA’s legislative priorities and encourage you to carefully review this 2011 Legislative Preview. Please also watch for special “Legislative Alerts” that you will receive during the session—we need you to be engaged on the legislative issues that affect dentistry in Minnesota and will rely on you to help relay dentistry’s message to your legislators. We can assure you that MDA leaders and staff are prepared to work hard legislatively and will continue to update you on what is happening at the State Capitol throughout the session. We hope you will feel free to contact us at any time if you have questions.
Let’s look at some of the many dynamics that are affecting this year’s legislative session:
Political Repositioning. This year’s legislative mindset is essentially a complete opposite from past years. We now have a Democrat Governor and a Republican House and Senate. In addition, nearly one-third of the legislators (60) are brand new and will have a huge uphill climb to fully understand all of the complex issues now facing them. This creates a very important need for MDA members to be talking with their legislators regularly to ensure that our legislative priorities are heard. The current make-up of the House and Senate respectively now stands at 72 Republicans / 62 Democrats and 37 Republicans / 30 Democrats.
Money, money, money. One thing that has NOT changed is that the state continues to be in a financial bind and is projecting a $6.2 billion budget shortfall. Many of the new legislators were elected to come to St. Paul to fix the problem. There have been cuts and cuts and cuts over the last several years and many are concerned as to where the next $6.2 billion will come from. The cuts that are coming are going to be painful and felt by everyone and some real reforms will have to be passed. There are many Capitol experts that are very concerned as to how rough this legislative cycle will be.
Your Lobbyists. Government Affairs Director Tom Day (21 years experience), contract lobbyist Dominic Sposeto (34 years experience) and contract lobbyist Mary Gilbert Dougherty (25 years experience) continue to lead our lobbying efforts at the State Capitol. Combined they have over 80 years of experience, 53 of which have been representing the Minnesota Dental Association to legislators.
Fair Dental Contracting Legislation. The MDA is taking bold legislative action to curtail big insurance companies’ practice of setting fees for non-covered services, conducting unfair audits and “evergreen” contract periods. H.F. 122 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Greg Davids (R-Preston) and referred to the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee. We are also in the process of obtaining Senate authors and having the bill introduced in the Senate.
This legislation will help to restore fairness and create a level playing field for dental offices doing business in Minnesota by addressing these three areas:
Dental Access/Barrier Reduction Legislation. With the recent budget cuts and elimination of the critical access program for private sector dentists, it is even more important to take action to maintain oral health care for the most needy public assistance program enrollees and look at ways that oral health coverage can be reformed at the state level.
Other Issues. We realize that there are many other issues that are important to our membership. If there are other issues on which you would like additional information, or would like to see us address, please feel free to give us a call at the MDA office.
Legislative Advocates. If you would like to set up a Grassroots meeting with your legislators, please contact the MDA and we can help you arrange a meeting. Also, if you have not yet registered to be an official MDA Legislative Advocate, please contact Director of Government Affairs, Tom Day, at the MDA office.
Dental Day at the Capitol. Dental Day at the Capitol will be here in just a few weeks—Wednesday, March 2. On this day, over a hundred dentists and dental students will meet in St. Paul at the Kelly Inn, to discuss legislative issues in the morning and then meet with their legislators during the early afternoon. If there are issues in this Alert that are important to you, it is vital that you join with your peers on this day to lobby state legislators. To register, please contact the MDA office.
Tim Flor, DDS Matt Anzelc, DDS
MDA President Legislative Committee Chair