If you practice dentistry in Arizona, you can’t ignore politics

Making plain sense of words like “advocacy,” and why in the heck Arizona dentists should care

Arizona dentists, if the words “advocacy” and “legislative agenda” are unfamiliar to you, don’t feel you’re alone. Most dentists don’t know “exactly” what those terms mean either. Furthermore, many of your peers wonder why they should care at all.

After all, you’re a dentist and not a politician, right? Your focus is on your patients and your dental team—right where it should be. Most of your colleagues are too busy—too overworked—to care about laws, advocacy, lobbying, etc. Maybe you’re in the same position as well. While that’s completely understandable, what might trouble you is to learn that this is exactly what some groups—groups who don’t have your best interests at heart—are hoping for.

So, with that in mind, if all this talk about advocacy and why it’s important is confusing, but you’re open to learning, perhaps the following primer might be helpful.

Advocacy, at least as it relates to “dental advocacy,” is merely asserting, debating, persuading, and/or lobbying in favor for or against a policy, law, or proposed bill. AzDA advocates on behalf of you and other Arizona dentists.

AZ Advocacy

You’re just practicing dentistry, so why do you need AzDA to advocate for you?

Every year Arizona representatives and senators (together called legislators) host a legislative session during in which new legislation or bills are submitted, considered, debated, and then voted on. This is the process whereby new legislation (aka bills) is introduced and considered. These bills, if voted into law, can significantly change how you practice dentistry. That might not sound like a big deal, but it is.

During each year’s legislative session, bills are introduced by third parties, interest groups, and outside entities, but these bills don’t often have your best interests, or that of your colleagues, at heart. If the introduced legislation (bill) receives enough support (“Yes” votes), it will become a law, which might force you to change how you run your practice in a way you don’t want to. Some bills can downright make your professional life miserable. For example, reduced reimbursement, more regulations on how you dispose of sharps, increased scope of practice for dental team members, etc.

So yes, like it or not, all this political “stuff” does matter if you’re practicing dentistry in Arizona. Even if you turn a blind eye to it, and want nothing to do with it, it still affects how you practice.

Because certain people/groups can really benefit or be hurt by a new bill that’s being considered, many third parties, interest groups, and outside entities, for example, insurance companies, invest a truckload of money by hiring political lobbyists who speak to Arizona legislators on THEIR behalf (hoping to encourage legislators to vote a particular way on a new bill).

You’ve probably already guessed that these third parties, outside interest groups, and insurance companies, often aren’t looking to improve dentistry in Arizona but look after their own interests, and it’s legal. It’s called “lobbying,” which is defined as, “a person or group engaged in trying to influence legislators or other public officials in favor of a specific cause.”

Take, for example, that not long ago, special interest groups tried to introduce legislation that would allow for a mid-level provider—someone who could perform irreversible dental procedures but who hadn’t attended one day of dental school. Scary, isn’t it? They hired high-powered expensive lobbyists to convince Arizona legislators that it was an “access to care issue.” In turn, AzDA, which was advocating for you, fought/argued against these lobbyists that a mid-level provider was not in the public’s best interest.

While AzDA was successful in advocating for you in this case, the truth is, every year there’s a chance new legislation (if voted “yes” on) will allow for government overreach, third-party intrusion, and insurance companies making it harder to practice dentistry.


So what’s AzDA doing for you?

Every year we invest resources into protecting your profession against legislation that could harm your patients or the way you practice. Conversely, we introduce and support legislation that will make things better for you as dentists and the patients you serve. We’re able to do this through our AzDA Advocacy Team. This group ensures you and other Arizona dentists get to have your voice heard by politicians voting on bills that affect how you practice. It ensures your wants and needs aren’t silenced or trampled by outside interests that invest a ton of money into pushing their agenda.

AzDA’s Advocacy Team is comprised of a Council on Government Affairs (a group of nine volunteer dentists who discuss upcoming bills), and a lobbyist team that helps to craft legislation that is beneficial for you, your Arizona dentist colleagues, and the patients you treat. Lobbyists also of course speak to Arizona legislators on your behalf—making sure Arizona representatives and senators clearly understand your perspective and what’s in your best interest (and your patients’).

AzDA’s Advocacy Team also includes an actual former Arizona State Representative (having served for eight years), Dr. Regina Cobb, who serves as AzDA’s Executive Director. Last, AzDA member dentists—your peers—donate money to support AzDA’s political action fund (PAC), which provides some financial support to Arizona legislators who are most in line with our members’ needs.

AzDA’s Advocacy Team invests over 250 labor hours defending your profession every single year. That’s a staggering amount of work, but circling back to a point covered earlier in this article, “the truth is, every year there’s a chance new legislation (if voted “yes” on) will allow for government overreach, third-party intrusion, and insurance companies making it harder to practice dentistry.”

The bottom line, whether we like it or not, is that advocacy is a constant fight.

We wish third parties, insurance companies, and special interest groups would leave dentistry alone, but that’s not going to happen. It’s too lucrative, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. So, every year it’s a new ballgame. New bills are introduced and AzDA’s Advocacy Team strategizes (called creating a political agenda that outlines which bills we’re focusing on) and then springs to action on your behalf.

And we get it, most dentists don’t want to get involved in politics, dental advocacy, or any of this stuff. You’re clinicians and not politicians. However, your profession is not isolated or immune from politics, so you need someone defending you every—single—year. AzDA does this (yep, we’ve got your back), whether you know it or not; whether you’re a new or established dentist; whether you’re in private practice or a DSO; whether you care about what we’re doing or not, and even whether you’re supporting us through membership or not. That’s how important we think preserving your profession is.

Having read this primer now, do you wonder, “What would happen if AzDA wasn’t advocating for you—standing in the way of third parties, insurance companies, and special interest groups who want a piece of your profession?” It’s not a pleasant thought.

So, this is why advocacy is important—why AzDA is important, and why we ask that you support our efforts through continued membership. Can we count on you for that?