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Letters: On Delta

January 02, 2012

Dr. David Lurye’s letter in the Sept. 5 ADA News is a spot-on assessment of the Frankenstein’s monster that is Delta Dental. Originally spawned in 1955 by the California Dental Association as the California Dental Service, the country’s first dental insurance plan, it has morphed into a bully in every sense of the word.

To Dr. Lurye’s concerns, I would add that in the same issue’s report on new dental schools ("An In-Depth Look at Dental Education"), the University of New England College of Dental Medicine is being partially funded by Delta to the tune of $2.3 million. I question whether this financial interest will possibly result in "evidence-based" research coming out of this institution that will conveniently come to the conclusion that a large amalgam is preferable to a cast gold restoration. Add to this the fear that recent graduates, especially, feel in not participating in Delta because "your patients will go somewhere that accepts Delta."

Also, interestingly, in the September issue of the California Dental Association’s Update newsmagazine, there is an article discussing the recent lifting by Delta of its fee-filing freeze in the Premier program, originally instituted to shrink the gap between these fees and those of Delta’s PPO (DPO) plans. Delta has done a wonderful marketing job in convincing Americans that dentistry is comparable to Goodyear tires. Why would you pay top dollar at a Goodyear store when you can get the same thing at Costco for less?

While realizing that higher fees do not necessarily mean better quality dentistry, there is some correlation, and Delta’s fee-listing policies tell the top 20 percent they are not wanted. I found that while I was practicing, though there was a small gap between my usual, customary and reasonable fee schedule and my Delta fee schedule, the gap was growing and I was becoming increasingly uneasy trying to answer the question, "Why should someone with no insurance pay 100 percent of a higher fee than a Delta patient paying only a 30 percent copay on a lower fee?"

I consider my best decision was discontinuing my Delta participation on April Fool’s Day 2001. The patients who went "somewhere that accepts Delta" were exemplified by a lady who had continually declined doing a crown on a cracked tooth that was causing mild discomfort because she did not want to pay her 30 percent, while at each recall asking if Delta had decided yet to cover bleaching.

Jon D. Williamson, D.D.S.
Alamo, Calif.