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Professional advocacy ‘leverage’ cited in Michigan

Professional advocacy ‘leverage’ cited in Michigan
Dr Verhagen

Lansing, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder, in a special health care message Sept. 14, praised the profession’s oral health initiatives as important to the health of Michigan residents and urged state and federal funding hikes to expand and sustain them. 

Michigan Dental Association officials credited MDA’s 2010 report, “A United Voice for Health Care,” for highlighting recommendations similar to those enunciated by the governor in his health care message. Funded by an ADA State Public Affairs grant, the report was distributed widely to legislators and health care policy makers, according to MDA staff.

“We were pleased that we were able to leverage the findings of the United Voice report in our discussions with the governor’s staff about key oral health issues the governor should address,” said Dr. Connie Verhagen, MDA president. “The findings of the report reflect the collective wisdom of a broad array of our partners, and the governor appeared to respond to that consensus statement.”

The 2011 ADA House of Delegates, meeting Oct. 10-13 in Las Vegas, approved a funding increase of $876,000 to $3.5 million for the 2012 budget year as “essential to support the advocacy efforts of SPA and address emergent needs in the states” and approved up to $5 million in additional funding from the Association’s reserves if necessary for the State Public Affairs program.

In his health care message, Gov. Snyder was “absolutely right to focus on the return-on-investment of proven programs to make sure taxpayer money is spent wisely,” said MDA Executive Director Drew Eason, who attended the governor’s news conference in Grand Rapids. “Michigan’s Healthy Kids Dental program is considered a model for the nation, yet it only reaches one-third of Medicaid-eligible children, and few in the state’s largest urban areas.”

The governor urged state legislators, in crafting a fiscal year 2013 budget, to consider extending the Healthy Kids Dental Program statewide. A four-county expansion that took effect Oct. 1, 2011, extended the program to 65 of 83 counties. The governor cited the Healthy Kids initiative as “an excellent program treating a different population in need of care.”

Gov. Snyder emphasized oral health as integral to his “four- by- four” plan encouraging healthier lifestyles though healthy diet, regular exercise, annual physical examinations and tobacco cessation, the MDA said in a news release. The Michigan governor also:

  • called on the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to work with the dental community to develop and disseminate educational materials to the public and policy makers on access to care and oral and systemic health;
  • noted a high return on investment for MDA’s Donated Dental Services program and cited the MDA and the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped (now known as the Dental Lifeline Network) for starting the program in 1995;
  • urged creation of new federally qualified health centers and directed the Department of Community Health to seek assistance from Michigan’s congressional delegation in securing additional funds.