Dr. Cox goes to Frankfort!
This morning, I joined dozens of dentists from across the state for the Kentucky Dental Association's annual Legislative Day in Frankfort. The KDA represents over 1,000 dentists and serves as the organized voice of dental professionals throughout the state. I have been involved with the KDA's efforts to advocate for the health and welfare of our communities since my time as a student at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. Our community is fortunate to be represented by two of the leading members of both chambers of the state legislature. I had the chance to sit down for one-on-one discussions with Senator Max Wise (S-16) - whose wife, Heather, is a pediatric dentist in Campbellsville - and Representative John "Bam" Carney (R-51). Here's a rundown of the main issues I and my fellow dentists discussed with legislators:
A Healthier Commonwealth
- Opioid Abuse: Dental professionals have joined our medical colleagues in the fight to curb Kentucky's disturbing trend of opioid abuse. As providers, we are on the front lines of the battle to push back against the public health crisis that our state currently faces. We advocated for efforts to combat over-prescription of opiates, increased funding for treatment and rehabilitation of patients suffering opioid addiction, and increased availability for safe drug disposal sites for unused medications.
- Public Health Initiatives: The KDA supports public health programs encouraging smoking cessation and limiting the consumption of sugary drinks. Efforts to curb these harmful habits in our communities translates to healthier people, lower burden on our healthcare systems, and decreased pressures within the workforce due to missed work time for health-related problems.
- Medicaid: Medicaid is a crucial benefit for many in Kentucky most vulnerable to oral disease. Unfortunately, Medicaid reimbursement rates remain at an exceptionally low level, discouraging many providers from participating in these networks (note: Campbellsville Dental Care is actively working to become a Medicaid/MCO participating provider). We advocated for continuing the Medicaid benefit program for as many vulnerable citizens of the Commonwealth as possible, as well as increased resources to reimburse providers who care for these members of our communities.
Finances and Tax Reform
- Student Debt: Today's graduating dentists leave school with an average of $261,149 of student loan debt! This debt has a significant impact on decision-making upon graduation, including whether the dentist will choose to work in a wealthy, urban/suburban market or a rural or underserved segment of the state. Kentucky faces significant shortages of dental professionals in areas of the state most in need of dental care. We support legislation that will relieve this debt burden for Kentucky's students by adequately funding our two state dental schools in Lexington and Louisville. We also support programs that offer loan repayment or loan forgiveness in exchange for working in rural or underserved areas.
- Soda Tax: while any tax is unpopular, several states have had tremendous success in generating revenue from a small tax on sugary drinks, which have proven to be incredibly detrimental to oral health and are one of the leading causes of tooth decay in America. Our neighbors in West Virginia initially funded their state dental school through a tax levied on soft drinks and sugary beverages, and the state of Arkansas has partially funded their Medicaid system with a soda tax since 1992. We support a tax on sodas and sugary drinks that would support Medicaid dental coverage for Kentucky's citizens.
I was grateful for the opportunity to lend my voice to the group of professionals advocating for a healthier state. An engaged citizenry is absolutely essential to ensure an effective government. I encourage all of our community members to take action, speak up, and let your voice be heard at the local level, in Frankfort, and in Washington, DC.