ADA members, dental organizations drum up support for Massachusetts ballot measure

Dentists hope a ‘Yes’ vote will improve value of dental benefits for patients

Art of state of Massachusetts insurance reform

When Gary Oyster, D.D.S., learned there was a ballot question in Massachusetts calling for dental insurance reform, the veteran dentist didn’t hesitate to contribute to a grassroots campaign supporting the initiative.

Even though Dr. Oyster has practiced for more than 50 years in North Carolina, he recognized right away the precedent that could be set for dentists and patients nationwide. If the Massachusetts measure is passed, it would require dental insurance carriers in the state to spend at least 83% of premium dollars on patient care. Those carriers that fail to meet that minimum would have to refund the difference.

“Everywhere I go in North Carolina, people ask me, ‘What is ADA doing about insurance issues?’” said Dr. Oyster, ADA 16th District trustee. “When this ballot question came up, I knew: Win or lose, we need to do something about this. To me, the No. 1 thing is this is a patient issue. They need to know where their premium dollars are going.”

Dentists pitching in to help the Massachusetts Dental Society and the ADA support for the Massachusetts Dental Care Providers for Better Dental Benefits campaign was exactly what ADA President Cesar R. Sabates, D.D.S., was hoping for when he sent a Sept. 15 email to members urging them to support Question 2.

“The ADA is proud to join with the Massachusetts Dental Society to help support this measure, and we are asking for your support as well,” Dr. Sabates said. “Please consider financially contributing to the campaign to support a ‘yes’ vote on Massachusetts Question 2. Why? Because if we win in Massachusetts, it will be a watershed moment for patients and dentistry, setting a precedent that could herald future change for dental insurance across the country."

Headshots of leaders for Massachusetts ballot measure

Top, from left are Drs. Sabates, Oyster and Bailey. Bottom from left are Drs. Smiley, Wortman and Zweig.

The ADA has committed $5 million to the campaign. As of Sept. 30, individual dentists from 42 states have made contributions.

“Every dollar contributed is important. All dentists, dental team members and patients are the beneficiaries of this initiative. We are a dental family standing together to protect and advocate for our patients,” Dr. Sabates said.

State societies, dental specialty organizations announce support
Many state dental societies and dental specialty organizations also have announced support of the campaign.

“Efforts such as the Massachusetts ballot initiative and MLR reform will help ensure patient dollars go to patient care,” said Stefan I. Zweig, D.D.S., president of the American Association of Endodontists. “This can serve as an impetus to improve dental access to care and health equity in the state of Massachusetts.”

“This is an important consumer issue, assuring premium dollars are spent on patient care and not on excessive profit for insurance companies,” agreed Christopher Smiley, D.D.S., who practices in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and donated to the campaign. “Colleagues should support this initiative that could spur reform across the country.”

Another Michigan dentist, Krista Wortman, D.D.S., who practices in Shelby Township, said she felt compelled to help Massachusetts.

“I have been practicing dentistry for over 25 years and have always been in-network with many PPO plans. After the pandemic it has become extremely challenging to try to manage my practice based on the increase in labor costs and supplies, coupled with the low reimbursements from these insurance companies,” Dr. Wortman said. “I felt compelled to contribute to this ballot initiative in Massachusetts because as a member of this great profession, we all need to take a stand against the insurance industry for fairness for the dentist and the patient. I am grateful for the ADA and their investment in our profession.”

‘Paying it forward’
The ballot measure was initiated by a group of Massachusetts dentists and the Massachusetts Dental Society Trustees voted to endorse supporting the ballot question earlier this year.

“This issue has been a key focus of Massachusetts’ advocacy efforts for years,” added Meredith A. Bailey, D.M.D., MDS president. “The state’s current approach to operate without a medical loss ratio for dental insurance is unfair to patients who deserve to have most of their premium dollars spent on the dental care they need. This ballot measure is finally a chance to achieve the necessary change.”

The ballot initiative also calls for:

• Requiring dental benefit companies to disclose projected medical loss ratio for dental plans, file the following year’s group product base rates by July, and release other specified financial information.
• Authorizing the commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to approve or disapprove of any product rates.

“I encourage everyone across the country who wants to see dental insurance companies held accountable for spending premium dollars collected on actual patient care to stand with us and financially contribute to this campaign,” Dr. Sabates said. “Your contribution to Massachusetts Dental Care Providers for Better Dental Benefits can set the stage for dental insurance change one state at a time.”

“I firmly believe veteran, active dentists need to pay it forward,” Dr. Oyster said. “We seasoned practitioners have had pretty good careers. I am proud of this profession and think that patients really value us because we see them as people.”

To contribute to the campaign or learn more about the ballot initiative, visit