Iowa News

A Year in Review with IDA President Dr. Zach Kouri

Zach KouriAs I look back on all that happened in 2021, I want to pause and thank you for being a part of this amazing network of dedicated dentists here in Iowa. It’s hard to believe at this time last year we were anxiously awaiting the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine to dentists and their teams. Since then, we have all navigated a variety of new challenges and although I know the past couple of years have not been easy, I am optimistic that we will all be stronger for what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown throughout the pandemic. 
A few highlights of 2021 that stand out for me include:
IDA Legislative Victories: 2021 was a busy year for the IDA legislatively, as it was the first time in recent history a government affairs director was on staff full-time with the association. In partnership with IDA’s contract lobbyists, Sara Allen and David Adelman, Josh Carpenter strengthened IDA’s voice at the Iowa Statehouse and successfully encouraged lawmakers to pass two dental-related bills. As of July 1, 2021, communities are now required to inform their citizens 90 days prior to any action to permanently discontinue water fluoridation. Requiring this notification has provided dentists and other consumers the opportunity to contact their local governments to voice support for the benefits of fluoridation. Since the bill passed, the towns of Tama and Williamsburg have faced this issue and IDA member dentists have been instrumental in overturning those decisions.
IDA also supported the “ortho bill” in 2021, which requires patients who seek orthodontic treatment to show proof of a dental examination within the previous six months, or to have a dental examination before beginning treatment.
I express my gratitude to Drs. and Representatives Bradley and Jeneary, who have both indicated their intent to run for reelection in 2022. Having two dentists serve in the Iowa House of Representatives has also strengthened the dentist’s voice at the Statehouse.
IDA Medicaid Committee: This summer, under the leadership of Dr. Sara Stuefen, the IDA Medicaid Committee convened to identify opportunities to increase dentist participation in the Dental Wellness Plan (DWP). Thanks to the hard work of the committee, we now have a better understanding of what it will cost the state to increase Iowa’s DWP rates to match the Hawki program, and we are hopeful that making a DWP rate increase our top priority for 2022 will help ensure Iowans can be seen in their local dental offices.

imom-local_ingersoll-dental_zach-kouriIMOM Local: As many of you probably know, I wear several hats within IDA as well as the Iowa Dental Foundation (IDF). On the IDF side, I serve as the President-Elect and am extremely passionate about the great work Iowa’s dentists do through the Iowa Mission of Mercy (IMOM). This year we had to once again postpone the large-scale IMOM due to the ongoing pandemic, and asked you to consider opening your own dental offices to see patients in need. I am pleased to report that IMOM Local was a great success! In total, 29 clinics opened their doors for free dental care to 530 patients and provided over $369,000 worth of care. In my clinic alone, we treated 14 patients and provided $11,320 worth of donated dental care. I find the work of IMOM to be extremely gratifying and I was immediately reminded of how good it feels to give back to patients in need. I can’t wait to see you when the large-scale IMOM returns to the Iowa State Fairgrounds on November 4-5, 2022. 

IMG_2758ADA House of Delegates:
 In October I had the pleasure of joining six IDA members in serving as a delegate to the ADA House of Delegates meeting in Las Vegas. I even took to the podium to offer an amendment to a resolution regarding anesthesia coverage under health plans. The amendment I proposed added two key factors health plans should consider when a patient receives anesthesia: the complexity of the procedure and the behavior of patients during dental procedures. This issue also impacted our pediatric dentists here in Iowa in 2021. Through numerous conversations and outreach efforts, in November IDA dentists successfully moved Amerigroup to discontinue the outpatient dental prior authorization requirement they put in place in April.

IDA Member Involvement: 
The IDA remains committed to continued advocacy and education, and we are working with the Iowa Dental Board to find solutions to the workforce issues and challenges with the existing structure of expanded functions. I am encouraged to see so many of our IDA members volunteer to serve on these work groups, and I know many of you have volunteered to serve as key contacts to your legislators locally. As we work to increase the reimbursement rates for the Dental Wellness Plan in 2022, it is critical all IDA members do their part by speaking with legislators and contributing to IDPAC. 
As we look ahead to 2022, I am hopeful that an end to the global pandemic will be possible in the foreseeable future. I can’t wait to see many of you in person when we reunite at the IDEAS22 meeting in Des Moines on April 28-30! Until then, I wish you and your families a joyous holiday season and a healthy new year, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to serve as your President.

-Zach Kouri, DDS, IDA President