Dr. Stan Montee, along with approximately 60 other AGD members, traveled to Washington, D.C. in April for a day long session of advocacy training followed by a day of visits on Capital Hill. Dr. Mike Bromberg, Legislative and Governmental Affairs Chair, opened up the session by describing the current advocacy efforts underway in the AGD; the three major issues being repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, support of the Dental Coverage Act (non-covered services) and the non-dentist provider issue.
J.P. Paluskiewicz, Deputy Chief of Staff and Health Policy Advisor to Congressman Michael Burgess, M.D., welcomed the group to the Hill and spoke about how bills are created and passed in the Congress. J.P. also described the inside operations of a typical congressional representative’s day. Dr. Montee was most impressed with his speech. “J.P. offered us a behind the scenes look at our government and the daily negotiations that occur when debating bills. The bottom line of J.P’s speech was inspiring: We, the citizens, truly possess the power to affect change in policy. I used to believe that a call or email from one constituent was futile. However, having experienced this first hand, our representatives are very sensitive to a constituent’s request and are more than eager to listen and act on their behalf.”
The remainder of the first day was devoted to role playing on the various issues. The group was divided up into teams of 8 and given a specific legislative scenario to develop a lobbying strategy for. “Having never worked the Hill before, I was unsure how, and frankly intimidated, to speak to my representatives. The role playing exercise allowed me to formulate my talking points and practice my delivery. What’s more, I did this in front of my peers who critiqued me and provided critical feedback. We had a lot of fun with the role playing exercises. I found this to be the most rewarding aspect of the legislative conference.”
The second day opened with a presentation by the Honorable Paul Gosar, D.D.S., (R-AZ-01) and a surprise speech by Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call and Co-Host of the Beltway Boys on Fox News. Representative Gosar, a freshman Congressman, provided the group with insight on the current deficit debate and his ideas on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Dr. Montee remarked, “It was a great experience to be able to listen to a freshman Congressman and a fellow dentist who has met a payroll and understands the issues facing our profession.”
Dr. Montee began his day on the Hill meeting with representatives from Tennessee; Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, as well as his personal representative Congressman Stephen Fincher (TN-8). “The meetings went well and I presented the AGD positions on Mccarran-Ferguson repeal and support of the Dental Coverage Act. I met with the Honorable Congressman Fincher, a first term representative, who impressed me. His energy and enthusiasm to tackle our Nation’s problems was contagious. He was well versed in the issues facing our profession and receptive to our requests. I wanted to thank all of our representatives’ for taking the time to hear the AGD’s position on McCarran-Ferguson, the Dental Coverage Act and for all that you do for the great State of Tennessee.”
When asked how members can get involved, Dr. Montee replied,” The AGD makes it easy for you to act on current legislation. You can go to the AGD website and search under advocacy for the CapWiz tool or when an email action alert is sent out by the AGD act on it. It takes a few minutes to fill out and a letter is sent to your representative. Believe me when I tell you that these emails are read and your voice is heard. I was surprised to find that only a small percentage of our approximately 35,000 members actually use the Action Alert email tool. We are a powerful voice if we all take a few minutes to act.”
Dr. Montee would recommend the conference to other AGD members, “As always the AGD has created an amazing program for its members to become involved in the legislative process. The AGD staff worked hard to ensure that we had a remarkable conference and it showed. For two days, I was able to meet with incredibly creative and talented AGD members who dedicate their time to the service of our profession, the Academy and the public. I’m proud to be a member and would recommend that if you are interested in the legislative process then you should look at attending next year’s conference or get involved at your local AGD level. Thank you to the Tennessee AGD board for allowing me the opportunity to attend. Remember, you absolutely have the power to make a change in our Government. All you have to do is participate.”