FROM THE EDITOR: Lobbying for Dental Health?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Of all the stories I cover in Eureka Springs, no other garners more local, national and even international attention than fluoride. Each time I run a story about fluoride, I inevitably get calls and emails from not only the citizens of Eureka and surrounding areas, but from people in cities as far away as Canada and Ireland. The message is clear: "We do not want fluoride in our water."

After careful consideration, I began to wonder why then, if citizens oppose fluoride, is a dental insurance company and its related non-profits, helping fund water fluoridation projects in state water districts like the Carroll-Boone Water District? What exactly is Delta Dental's vested interest? According to the non-profit Delta Dental Foundation, which is associated with the for-profit health insurer, fluoridating the local water supply will save the company money in the long-run.

To better understand, I started digging.

Following the money trail

In March 2011, the Arkansas state legislature approved Act 197 of 2011, requiring fluoride in all water systems that serve 5,000 people or more.

Melissa Masingill, vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations oversight for Delta Dental Association and Delta Dental Foundation, says that though DDF supported Act 197, it did not actively lobby for the legislation.

Masingill is technically correct. Though DDF did not actively lobby for the legislation, one look into Opensecrets.org shows that Ed Choate, CEO of DDF Arkansas, contributed $1,000 in 2011 and $1,000 in 2012 to Delta Dental Plans Association, which is the lobbying arm of Delta Dental. Though the amount is small, it calls into question Masingill's claims about DDF's lobbying efforts. The graphic from Opensecrets.org gives a good picture of how much DD Plans Association spends on lobbying efforts.

Delta Dental and Monitor Group

Also, according to Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation's 2011 IRS Form 990, which a non-profit is required to submit, Delta Dental contracted with the now-defunct Monitor Group and paid them $700,000 for consulting services. Monitor declared bankruptcy in late 2012 and apologized for entering into a multimillion dollar contract with the Libyan regime to improve Gaddafi's image, according to news reports.

Though this does not mean that DDF was involved in anything nefarious, it does raise a question about why DDF contracted with Monitor and what services Monitor provided.

One thing is certain -- the citizens of Eureka Springs should continue working hard to stand against fluoridation of our water. If we don't want fluoride in our water, then large companies such as Delta Dental should respect our wishes.