AADR/ADEA Members on Capitol Hill: Advocacy Day Recap

On April 8, 2014, oral health scientists, educators and students from throughout the country participated in the 2014 AADR/ADEA Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. AADR and ADEA members from 22 states and the District of Columbia conducted over 70 meetings with members of Congress. During these meetings they urged Congress to provide $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $425 million for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and $32.4 million for the primary care training in General, Pediatric and Public Health Dentistry under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII Health Professions Program in the Fiscal Year 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriation Bill. Also, to amplify our message on Capitol Hill, AADR issued an action alert which enabled individuals to participate virtually in our Advocacy Day. To date, AADR advocates sent over 170 emails to members of Congress.

Prior to advocating on behalf of oral health research and education, AADR and ADEA
members attended a morning briefing session in the Rayburn House Office Building. Representatives Simpson, R-Idaho; Gosar, R-Ariz. and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.; and the staff of Senator Sanders, I-Vt., briefed and welcomed the participants. Katie Schubert, vice president of CRD Associates, provided an overview of the political and legislative landscape. Martha Somerman, director of NIDCR and Renee Joskow, senior dental advisor at HRSA, provided an update about initiatives and priorities at their respective
agencies.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, indicated his hope that Congress would complete its work
on appropriations but thought that it is doubtful Congress will finish this work prior to the elections.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said it is doubtful that Congress will pass a budget this year, but encouraged attendees to “Start lining up what you want with the right people because we’re at a crossroads with federal debt.” He described the characteristics of his district, where access to care is especially problematic. “Your message has to be diversified as well as dynamic. Once options are on the table, we can come up with solutions. Research must have priorities. Look at innovative models.” He then went on to discuss pillars of dentistry and where the need is.

Erica Solway, a senior advisor for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., described legislation Sen. Sanders recently introduced to address the dental crisis in America. This bill, S. 1522, would expand dental coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and The Department of Veterans Affairs. “The senator’s bill does quite a bit to expand dental coverage,” said Solway. “It would expand funding for grant programs for building, operating, or expanding dental clinics in schools. Sen. Sanders is also planning to introduce a bill on the primary care workforce and conduct a hearing on health care challenges.”

Rep. George Kenneth Butterfield, D-N.C., described his father’s experience as a dentist. Butterfield’s father immigrated to the United States from Bermuda in 1917 when he was 17 years old. After serving in the military during World War I, he studied dentistry while earning a living cleaning spittoons. Rep. Butterfield’s father went on to practice dentistry for 50 years and served as the first black elected official in Wilson, North Carolina since the Reconstruction era. Rep. Butterfield said he’s a strong proponent of the Affordable Care Act, but was disappointed that it does not include dental care for adults as an essential benefit—a goal he’ll continue to advocate.

Katie Schubert, vice president at CRD Associates, provided an overview of the political and legislative landscape on Capitol Hill. During her presentation she emphasized the need to engage and advocate with other organizations at the macro level by urging Congress to stop the austerity measures.

Reports from Advocacy Day participants indicated that while Congress supports the concept of increasing funding for biomedical research, members of Congress and staff stated there is not enough money available to provide significant increases for NIH and NIDCR this year because of the continued tight budget climate.

The AADR Government Affairs team invites all members of the dental research and education community to engage their elected officials regularly, but at least on an annual basis through the Advocacy Day program, to communicate the importance of dental, oral and craniofacial research. If you would like to become more involved with AADR’s advocacy efforts please contact Carolyn Mullen, director of government affairs, and contact your elected representatives through the online AADR Legislative Action Center.

Photo Index AADR ADEA Advocacy Day