Dr. Mary Jennings' Editorial: Pay Your Danged PAC Dues!
One of my undergraduate professors once told us he was going to provide information so valuable that we would demand to pay extra at the end of the course. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but he was right. I wish I didn’t, but I use his information on personality disorders almost every day.
That’s how I feel about ADPAC, the American Dental Political Action Committee. I wish we did not have problems, but now that I know we do, I pay more than the suggested dues. In Washington State, ADPAC dues are part of our voluntary dues. Only around 400 out of about 3,400 of us actually pay ADPAC dues.
Nationally 18 percent of dentists contribute to ADPAC. I find that distressing. The National Trade Association average for PACs is 14 percent. With insurance companies and the Affordable Care Act looming, I suspect we may have more to lose at this time than many businesses. I think the low percentage is due to a failure to communicate the value of our PACs.
Here is the bottom line you need to know about dental PAC’s. ADPAC is our National PAC. DentPAC is our state PAC. Our WSDA House of Delegates recognizes DentPac’s value and return on investment and has mandated a minimum of $75 dues for our members. We could use more.
It is against the law for associations to donate directly to candidates. We know that votes cannot be bought. We also know that we need to educate and influence our elected officials so they can do the right thing in areas where they have no expertise. Most of us pledged an oath to promote the health of the people we serve. ADPAC is part of the physical enactment of that oath.
There is no polite way to say this, but in America, money buys influence. Mr. Smith now needs a full pocketbook to get his point across when he goes the capitol. I don’t make the rules…
ADPAC dollars help keep healthcare policy sane. Legislators write laws. Agency workers interpret laws and create policies and rules. We need to influence rational decision making at all levels.
Political watchdog, OpenSecrets.org, ranks the American Dental Association as third in our “Health Professionals” category. They term us a “Heavy Hitter.” We raise around $1.6 million per year. It is important to note that over 2,400 dental students contribute and participate in ADPAC. We know from the 183 University of Washington dental students participating in Dental Action Day last winter that this generation both values and needs advocacy.
There are more than 3,000 federal bills a year put forth that affect dentistry. ADPAC predicts that of the 468 political races in this aggressive election year, ADPAC will be active in 351. We have two dentists in the House of Representatives, Paul Gosar (AZ) and Mike Simpson (ID). We may add Dr. Babin from Texas.
I have served on the ADA Council on Government Affairs for the last four years. From this seat, I can see the impact our leaders and staff make on dental public policy. At the moment, things are pretty sluggish in D.C. That does not matter. We keep working. We are building relationships with the leaders that interpret laws and are working at ground level on specific dental regulations.
ADPAC et al has prevented funding for the ACA’s Dental Therapist Demonstration for the fifth consecutive year. We opposed Senator Bernie Sanders’ Act that would have allowed federal agencies to hire midlevels. We supported the Federal Student Loan Refinancing Act and the Student Loan Interest Reduction Act. We are working to control unfair RAC audits. We are trying to reverse the Medicare “opt in” burdensome paperwork issue. We pushed to adopt the Pro Bono Dental Care Act and to prevent drug shortages. The impact list is huge and comprehensive. It ranges from fluoride and school snacks to hydrocodone and ERISA reform. But there is still much to do.
The ADPAC Committee would like to raise the national bar to 25 percent of members participating. That means we want you to pay $50 for a benefit that holds the line on stupid policies and the well intentioned fools who write and interpret them.
Past WSDA President Dr. Mark Walker is known to say that he only wants all your money and all your time. I want your empathy, support and encouragement to put good dental sense into policy. I want you to realize and take to heart what can befall us if we are not ever diligent in safeguarding our profession. I want you to participate in Dental Action Day and help us by our sheer will to keep dentistry sane. I want you to think carefully about your dues statement that is soon to arrive. Please engage in dentistry and at the very least…pay your danged PAC dues!