COVID-19: We’re stronger together

Although we’ve had to keep a social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the profession of dentistry is stronger together through organized dentistry. Photo taken at the 2019 ODA Leadership Institute.

Although we’ve had to keep a social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the profession of dentistry is stronger together through organized dentistry. From our collective voice advocating with state policymakers and insurance companies, to providing information and resources, to identifying sources of available PPE, we’re all in this together – and we’re stronger when we’re together.

We are advocating on your behalf to make sure your practice can maintain financial stability and your patients can receive the safe dental care they need

State policymakers have made rapid changes affecting dental offices during the pandemic. The Ohio Dental Association has built strong relationships with lawmakers over many years, and because we represent nearly 70% of practicing dentists, our voice was heard during the pandemic.

We know that as dentists, providing safe, quality dental care to your patients is a top priority. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been advocating for the care of dental patients.

  • We have been in contact with Governor DeWine’s office since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that dentists would be able to provide care for patients with emergency dental situations.
  • We also worked with the governor’s office and the Ohio State Dental Board to put a framework together about how to safely reopen dental practices. We convened a task force to deal with COVID-19 issues and to develop a framework for restoring oral health services in Ohio.
  • We are advocating for the Ohio Department of Medicaid and the HMOs to not take any actions that would adversely impact any aspect of Medicaid’s dental program in light of announced budget cuts.
  • We are advocating in support of legislation that would permit Ohioans to take a temporary state income tax deduction for out-of-pocket dental expenses.

We also know that the pandemic has caused financial hardship for many dental practices. Throughout the pandemic, our advocacy efforts have focused on providing financial relief to dental practices.

  • We sent a letter to the Ohio House of Representatives’ newly created 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force urging them to allow dental offices to reopen as soon as possible.
  • We advocated for grants and loans for dentist small business owners.
  • We advocated in support of the state of Ohio making unemployment compensation immediately available.
  • We advocated for additional funding for unemployment benefits and other resources for unemployed dentists and dental staff.
  • We sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor asking for dentists to be exempt from certain detrimental provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • Along with the American Dental Association and a coalition of more than 85 dental organizations, we urged Congress to authorize additional resources to support dental offices during the current coronavirus pandemic crisis.
  • The ODA advocated in the state of Ohio to ensure employer sponsored health plans could continue to provide coverage for employees impacted by COVID-19 who were temporarily laid off or not actively at work.

Additionally, Ohio Dental Association Executive Director David J. Owsiany recently provided testimony to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee in favor of legislation providing certain professionals and businesses qualified immunity from civil liability and other professional discipline for actions taken during the current coronavirus pandemic.

We have urged insurance companies to cover PPE costs and telemedicine visits

Using additional PPE has caused a significant increase in overhead costs for many dental offices. Because of this, we’re working with insurance companies and lawmakers to find solutions to help lessen the burden.

Since mid-March, we’ve asked Ohio based dental insurers and Ohio Medicaid to increase reimbursement levels to reflect the higher costs of PPE. Various payers have indicated that they’re considering different options to address the issue and, in fact, a few dental insurers have already acted but not all.

Additionally, the ODA supports legislation that was recently introduced and would require dental insurers to pay for a portion of expenses related to dentists’ additional PPE costs in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, we also have been in contact with private insurers, Medicaid and Medicaid HMOs asking them to cover services provided through technology in order to help triage dental patients and preserve PPE.

We’re working to identify sources of PPE and discounted products and services during this difficult financial time

Our members have reported that finding PPE has been a big challenge as they began to reopen their offices. We’ve worked to source PPE and identify avenues for dentists to find available PPE. We’ve also worked to secure additional discounts and financial flexibility to help our members during this difficult time.

  • We have been closely tracking information about the PPE dental offices need and we are working with suppliers to secure that PPE for our members through the ODA’s group purchasing organization, OhioDDS.
  • We endorsed ROE Dental for face shields and obtained a 10% discount for ODA members.
  • In recognition of the impact COVID-19 is having on small employers, specifically dental offices, the ODA Wellness Trust was able to provide increased flexibility for those members enrolled in the plan. This includes extended coverage for employees laid off or not actively at work because of office closures, a 30-day extended grace period (60 days total) to remit payment for monthly invoice amount, and coverage for COVID-19 testing at no member cost sharing.
  • We identified a source for dentists to purchase disposable gowns that could be delivered quickly.
  • We worked with our endorsed partners through ODASC to secure additional discounts and resources for our members to help them during this difficult time.

We’ve provided information to help you navigate this confusing situation, and we’ve provided resources for you to utilize during the stay-at-home order

Information has changed rapidly throughout this pandemic – sometimes on a daily basis. Providing accurate information to our members is always one of our top priorities, and has become even more important throughout the pandemic.

  • We have provided information to members through email, www.oda.org, Facebook and Twitter about topics including infection control, new regulatory guidelines, PPE, business resources and more.
  • ODA staff have personally responded to thousands of phone calls, texts and emails to members with specific questions related to COVID-19 and provided personalized answers and resources. Topics have ranged from assisting dentists who are working through unemployment compensation issues, SBA loans, dental insurance reimbursement and credentialing, HIPAA compliance, PPE guidelines, infection control and everything in between.
  • We’ve provided video updates on our Facebook page with the most important information dental offices need to know and to help clarify points of confusion.
  • We have contacted OSHA to receive details on regulatory compliance issues for dental offices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • We created a sample OSHA Respiratory Protection Program to help ensure you’re in compliance.

We also provided helpful, free resources for dentists to take advantage of during the stay-at-home order, including:

  • ODA Annual Session Sneak Peek CE courses, including two free CE courses with information about infection control, PPE and other resources related to opening your dental practice. More than 17,000 dental professionals have watched these webinars.
  • An online opioid CE course to help dentists fulfill the Ohio State Dental Board’s mandate.
  • A webinar about in-office membership plans.

We’re stronger together

The ODA will continue to work on members’ behalf throughout the rest of this pandemic and into the future. For resources and information about coronavirus for dental offices in Ohio, visit https://www.oda.org/member-center/resources/covid-19/.