Why Should I Become a State-level Advocate?

With headlines from federal politics dominating the news, it can be easy to overlook the importance of advocacy at the state level.

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For dental educators and dental students, however, state-level advocacy is just as and, sometimes, more important than petitioning the federal government.


States Have More of a Direct Impact on Daily Lives

State governments usually have a greater impact on daily lives, and many of the decisions that affect academic dentistry are made at the state level.

Some examples of issues addressed by states include:


The ability to regulate licensure is an exclusive power of the state. States set the standards for reciprocity, minimum requirements for entry into a profession, requirements for licensure renewal and scope of practice. Licensure regulations can impact your ability to work in a new state, recruit faculty and impact the types of procedures you may practice. 


While the federal government establishes requirements for minimum coverage for Medicaid/CHIP patients, many states often go beyond the minimum requirements and have considerable leeway when deciding who is eligible and what procedures are eligible for reimbursement. Some examples of decisions states can make include dental procedures for adults and whether to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Student Loan Repayment Programs for Dental Professionals

While many student loan repayment programs are a partnership between states and the federal government, states establish many of the requirements for eligibility and amounts eligible for reimbursement.

Higher Education Funding

States also make decisions that impact public health and access to dental care, and have played a major role in reduced funding for higher education.

States create legislation and regulations on a number of issues that affect academic dentistry.

For a complete list of the issues monitored by ADEA, please refer to the ADEA U.S. Interactive Legislative and Regulatory Tracking Map.


States Get More Done and Are Faster to Respond

In 2015, most states introduced more legislation than the U.S. Congress, and every state passed a higher percentage of bills into law than Congress.

There are many reasons that account for the higher rate of productivity, including less partisan gridlock, procedural deadlinesPDF and simply having to make more decisions on more issues.


State Legislators May be Easier to Meet

On average, a member of a state’s lower chamber represents nearly 60,000 people, while a member of a state senate represents just over 150,000. That may sound like a lot of people, but when compared to an average member of Congress who represents nearly three quarters of a million people, state legislators have far fewer constituents.

Additionally, in most states, legislatures only meet on a part-time basis, which means state legislators often spend more time living and working in the communities they represent.


The Structure and Nature of State Legislatures Puts You in a Position to be an Expert and a Strong Voice for Dental Education

Unlike Congress where every member has a large, full-time staff to research and inform a member about an issue, many state legislators have a very small staff or no staff at all. This puts you in a position to be a strong voice for dental education as legislators are expected to make decisions that shape our communities even when they are not experts on the topic at hand.

It is not unusual for state legislators to turn to subject matter experts when crafting policy or making decisions about a bill. As a leader in your field and respected member of your community, you are in a strong position to build relationships with state legislators and become a resource on issues related to dentistry, access to care, public health and higher education funding.


The Opportunity to Create Positive Change

Last, but certainly not least, one of the most common reasons people become involved in advocacy is the opportunity to create positive change.

As an instructor, administrator or student as well as a health care practitioner, you are unique position to see the issues affecting oral health in your state. You’re on the ground perspective of the most pressing oral health issues makes your input in the policy-making process invaluable. By getting involved, you can help create policy that leads to positive health outcomes for people in your state that would never happen without your input.