Is the Best Dental Insurance in Washington No Insurance?
Washington Dental Service (part of the Delta Dental family) boasts 2.5 million customers and over $900 million in revenue annually, but the non-profit has also told its dentists to expect 15 percent cuts in reimbursements for procedures as of this June.
“We found that 94¢ of every dollar went to paying dentists, while 6¢ went to internal costs,” claims Ron Inge, DDS, dental director and vice president of professional services for WDS.
Top pay at WDS is reputed to be about $900,00 per year, making it one of the more generously paying non-profits to work for, at least for its executives.
The news had 4,000 Washington dentists grinding their teeth, and penciling out how much dropping WDS-insured clients would cost them.
Combine that pressure with the fact that some 60 percent of Washington residents don’t have dental insurance, and Dr. Dan Marut’s Quality Dental Plan starts looking like a very interesting proposition indeed. Marut–honored as the “Best Dentist in Ashland”–established his Quality Dental Plan in October 2009, and it has two objectives: to get uninsured people to visit the dentist, and to put payments back in the hands of dentists. It’s not a third-party system–each dentist’s office runs their billing, using QDP’s proprietary “back office” set-up.
Patients pay a simple annual membership fee, and in return they get a preventive dental care package. I spoke with Poulsbo’s Jeromy Peterson, DDS, about the details. Peterson says he charges $325 per year (QDP is customizable, so the price varies dentist office by office), and then members receive two teeth cleanings, an annual dental exam and x-ray, and a teeth whitening (that last an in-demand cosmetic procedure not usually covered by insurance). There’s a discounted rate for additional family members.
Members also save 15 percent on any other treatments (cosmetics, implants, orthodontics), with no limit, and no deductible. Contrast that $325 yearly with Washington Dental Services basic individual plan (around $544, with maximum coverage of $1,000), and it’s easy to see the benefits.
Peterson, a 1997 graduate of the University of Washington School of Dentistry, attended the UW on a Navy scholarship, and afterwards put three years in the service, before setting up shop in Poulsbo, where he has 1,200 patients. “They’re typically people who don’t have insurance right now,” he says of his QDP members. “Every single one of my patients who wasn’t insured has signed up for it.”
Peterson is a fan of QDP because it keeps the patient relationship with the dentist–no insurance company steps in between to negotiate what’s covered, at what rate, and at their own speed of reimbursement. He sees big changes coming in Washington’s dental coverage landscape, as other major carriers cut their reimbursements as well.
Premiums, he notes, have yet to reflect all this cost-cutting. “We do have patients who have been moving away to HSAs, or who have dropped their insurance because they don’t use it enough to justify the costs,” he says, and predicts it won’t be long before businesses start to adopt QDP, lured by the fixed cost of the membership. (This is the same reason medical provider Qliance has drawn its business customers.)
If you’re curious, but not near Poulsbo, Dr. Wendy Crisafulli in Bothell and Dr. Lindsay Barry in Kirkland also offer the Quality Dental Plan. Here’s a list of other dentists offering QDP around Washington:
Benson Hill Smiles
Thomas A. Caspers, DDS
Randy McLeary, DDS
Bonney Lake, WA
CE Family Dentistry
Olivia Collier, DDS
Banner Family Dental
Drs Lael and Brant Banner
Aesthetic Dental Center
Van H. Vuong, DDS
Federal Way, WA