ADA Action Alert asks dentists to advocate for oral health care workforce initiatives

Legislation would ensure many dental workforce programs continue

The ADA is asking dentists to contact their senators to urge support for the oral health care provisions included in the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act, a bill that would increase funding for various health workforce programs, including many for oral health.

In a letter sent Sept. 19 to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the ADA expressed support for provisions in the bill that would extend the State Oral Health Workforce Improvement Grant Program, the Oral Health Training Programs, the Community Health Center Fund, the National Health Service Corps, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program. The bipartisan bill was authored by Sen. Sanders and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan.

“Workforce and access to care issues are among the ADA’s top priorities,” the letter reads, noting that many dentists report difficulty in recruiting for dental hygienists and assistants. “Dental practice staffing difficulties limit the number of patients dentists can see, and this problem is especially acute in underserved areas.”

In an emailed Action Alert to ADA members that reside in state for members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, ADA Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Michael A. Graham requested that they “please email your Senators and ask them to support this bill.”

“The workforce problem facing dental practices in America continues to be a top priority for our profession,” Mr. Graham said. “Many of you wrote to your senators in June to ask them to support important workforce programs that would expand the dental workforce pipeline and increase access to care.” 

This summer, the ADA urged members to ask senators to support reauthorizing the Action for Dental Health workforce grants; the Restoring America’s Health Care Workforce and Readiness Act; allowing dental professional student loan borrowers to modify the interest on student loans; and the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act. The new legislation would ensure that many of these programs be able to continue. 

ADA’s support letter, signed by ADA President George R. Shepley, D.D.S, and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S, goes on to share support for the Action for Dental Health program, which provides federal funding through the Health Resources & Services Administration State Oral Health Workforce Grants to address the dental health needs of underserved populations. It also urges expansion of the National Health Service Corps scholarship and loan repayment opportunities for dentists in order to address local shortages, as well as the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program. Extending the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program would “direct critical funding to a program that has needed increased resources for years,” the ADA stated, and ultimately address workforce shortages and health disparities. 

“The ADA would like to thank the committee for their consideration of legislation that supports programs to expand the oral health care workforce,” the letter concludes. “These programs are crucial for creating a robust provider network that will improve access to quality oral health care for patients nationwide.”

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