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Letters: Insurance and utilization

March 03, 2014

I read with interest the article in the Feb. 3 ADA News "Maryland Study Looks at Correlation Between Dental Insurance and Utilization."

Not surprisingly, the study found that all people who had dental insurance do not use it. The obvious suggestion was to try and market to these people so that we can increase utilization of insurance. To quote the article, "the data also indicates that getting people to use dental coverage to seek care is not a short term prospect." In other words, we really have to sell the idea to get people to their insurance. Remarkable to me, in this article, "the number of providers available in the market could also affect the likelihood that patients will use their dental coverage, supporting the development of programs encouraging people to enter the field dentistry."

It is astonishing to me that someone could conclude that having more dental providers would increase utilization of dental insurance. This may be true in an environment where people were not using insurance because they could not get in to a dentist, but this is not the case in this study. While increasing providers may provide job security for dental educators, it does nothing for those in private practice who have taken loans and are now struggling to make a living. I am not sure who wrote this article, as the author was not named, but I would submit to the author that the conclusion regarding increasing the number of providers to solve utilization problems is like expecting that increasing the number of writers for newspapers would increase interest in reading newspapers.

Frankly, I think that we have the whole thought process backwards. Rather than focusing on utilizing dental insurance, we should be focusing on educating the general public to the point where they will use our services, regardless of whether they have dental insurance or not. After all, dental insurance does not necessarily match up with patient needs anyway. Furthermore, is it really ethical for us as a profession to get people to spend someone else's money to pay for services we provide to people who obviously have little interest in their own health? We have more than enough providers for people who want to get good dental care. Ask most anyone in private practice.

Martin L. Kolinski, D.D.S.
St. Charles, Ill.