On May 11, 2020, a team of AAO representatives met by phone with staff for two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, in two separate meetings, to advocate for AAO members with respect to availability of PPE as well as issues regarding federal agency regulations concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two congressional offices participating in those meetings were two U.S. Representatives who are dentists and who have worked with the AAO on many issues in the past, Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36) and Rep. Drew Ferguson (GA-3). Representing Rep. Babin’s office was Senior Legislative Assistant Lauren Ziegler, who handles healthcare policy for the Congressman. Legislative Assistant Miller Robinson, who handles healthcare policy for the Congressman, and Chief of Staff David Sours represented Rep. Ferguson’s staff. The team of AAO representatives included Dr. Michael Durbin, AAO Trustee and Chair of the AAO COVID-19 Task Force; Dr. Dale Anne Featheringham, Chair of the AAO’s Council on Governmental Affairs; Dr. Phil Mansour, member of the AAO’s Council on Governmental Affairs and member of the COVID-19 Task Force; AAO Legal and Advocacy staff Rob Kent, Trey Lawrence, and Gianna Hartwig; and Alex Campau, lead on the AAO’s federal lobbying team and Cozen O’Connor.
In the two meetings, the AAO team first raised concerns about availability of PPE for AAO members. The AAO team conveyed that the AAO absolutely supports first priority for PPE for “first line” workers (healthcare professionals treating COVID-19, first responders), but wants to make sure that PPE is also available for orthodontists and staff as practices begin to reopen under state and local guidance. Both Representatives’ staff conveyed that as dentists, the Congressmen are well aware of the need for PPE within the dental community as practices reopen. Both offices reported that they have already been raising this concern, in particular with the White House, and will continue to advocate for supply of PPE to dental practices.
With respect to federal regulatory guidance, the AAO team explained the AAO’s concern that following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal regulatory agencies like OSHA and the CDC may seek to make permanent the current interim guidance regarding PPE for medical practices. Both offices expressed interest in this issue as well, relaying that they similarly would not want unneeded regulations to be imposed on dental practices following the pandemic. Both offices’ staff asked that the AAO keep them informed on the AAO’s conversations with OSHA, the CDC and other federal regulatory agencies on these issues.
With the assistance of Alex Campau and the AAO’s lobbying team at Cozen O’Connor, the AAO continues to schedule additional meetings with congressional offices, as well as regulatory agencies, to advocate for AAO members regarding these and other issues. The AAO will continue to advocate on behalf of its members with respect to PPE and coronavirus-related regulations at the state and federal level, and will continue to keep members updated on these advocacy efforts.