Dr. Nahid Maleki, AAO president, recently visited lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to discuss issues important to orthodontists, including reducing student debt, passage of the AAO’s RAISE Act, and tax reform.
Easing the Burden of Student Debt
During her visit, Dr. Maleki met with Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), who is very involved with the student debt issue and was very receptive to the AAO’s concerns on this topic. Dr. Maleki also met with Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), lead sponsor of the Student Loan Refinancing and Recalculation Act, which would:
- Allow students to refinance their student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note rate, plus 1%. The ability to refinance extends to both graduate and undergraduate student loans, throughout the lifetime of the loan.
- Set future student loan interest rates at the 10-year Treasury note rate, plus 1%. This recalculation of student loan interest rates will ensure that the Federal Government is not making a profit off student loans.
- Eliminate origination fees on student loans.
- Delay student loan interest rate accrual for borrowers with an expected family contribution of less than, or equal to, $10,000 while they are in school. Low-income and middle-class borrowers would not accrue interest on their student loans while they are pursuing their education.
- Allow for borrowers with an expected family contribution greater than $10,000 to accrue only the base rate on their unsubsidized loans while they are in school. This base rate is equal to the 10-year Treasury note rate in effect when the loan is disbursed.
- Allow for borrowers in medical or dental residencies to defer payments until the completion of their program.
In addition, Dr. Maleki was able to meet with representatives for Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), Ways and Means Committee member and co-sponsor of the Student Refinancing and Recalculation Act during the last Congress, to share the AAO’s specific concerns about student debt and encourage Rep. Reed’s support for the current Act. Dr. Maleki also met with the House Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer (D- MD), and discussed the student debt issue.
Since many AAO members are both highly skilled medical professionals and owners/operators of their own small businesses, Dr. Maleki also stressed the importance of tax reform as it concerns small business owners. Dr. Maleki met with Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), who recently reintroduced the Bring Small Businesses Back Tax Reform Act (HR 1425). That legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code to establish new maximum individual tax rates for qualified business income that does not exceed $1 million (i.e., small business income).
Improving Healthcare Policy
Strengthening and expanding consumer-directed healthcare options are also priorities for the AAO. To that end, Dr. Maleki met with Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), sponsor of the AAO’s Raise Act, which was re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2017.
The Responsible Additions and Increases to Sustain Employee (RAISE) Health Benefits Act (RAISE Act) would provide opportunities for American families to better manage healthcare costs, while also allowing them to save for future medical expenses. The Affordable Care Act contained a provision that limits the amount that an employee can contribute to Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) to $2,600 in 2017. Previously, the amount was limited only by the employer, with many employers choosing a $5,000 limit. Many orthodontic patients use FSAs as a way to keep orthodontic treatment affordable. With that in mind, Dr. Maleki thanked Rep. Latta for his support, and throughout the day encouraged Representatives Jason Smith, Tom Reed, and Ann Wagner (R-MO) to all co-sponsor the Bill.
Deepening the ADA-PAC Relationship
Dr. Maleki concluded her visit by meeting with Sarah Milligan, the American Dental Association Political Action Committee (ADPAC) director. They and AAO Associate General Counsel Sean Murphy discussed ways the AAO and ADA can continue to work together to support Congressional candidates who support dental and orthodontic issues. Ms. Milligan was quick to comment that she was impressed by the AAO’s increased presence in Washington and looks forward to the ADA and AAO forming further alliances to promote issues important to both dentists and orthodontists.