War of Words Not Over in Delta Dental vs. Johnston Mayor

Mayor Joseph Polisena recently said the town saved more than $130,000 by changing dental providers — but Delta Dental claimed that the town could have saved more by staying.


Mayor Joseph Polisena recently announced that the plan to change dental insurance providers for town employees — which originated in July, 2010 — has saved more than $130,000 since the switch went into effect.

But Delta Dental, the previous provider, replied that the town could have saved more by remaining with that company instead of moving to Blue Cross.

According to data released by the mayor, Johnston decreased its payments for dental insurance by about $12,000 for fiscal 2011 and about $121,000 so far in fiscal 2012. The coverage change affected about 914 current and retired municipal employees, police officers, and firefighters, Polisena noted.

During an Apr. 30 press conference at , Polisena said he especially wanted to point out the savings in light of Delta's public campaign against him in 2010, which included a statement by CEO Joseph Nagle accusing Polisena of "a litany of statements that are undeniably false," according to the .

The Insider also reported in July, 2010, that Joseph Rodio, a lawyer hired by the town to handle the dispute, told the town council that Delta couldn't produce a contract with the town when it was requested.

At the time, the newspaper reported, Rodio produced a memo released by Delta that promised a "media blitz" against Polisena.

"I took great umbrage to the fact that Delta Dental tried to make it political — they wrote letters to the public during election time, and they wrote letters to the members [of the unions], and the members didn't really respond, nor did the public, obviously, because I got reelected," Polisena explained. "I just think that it was very low for Delta Dental to get down in the mud like my political opponent did."

[IAFF Local 1950, the Johnston firefighters' union, supported former Fire Chief Victor Cipriano in the 2010 Democratic primary against Polisena.]

"We saved 19 percent — so I guess the case in point is, that as Delta Dental tried to discredit this administration and myself [for] making a business decision, I think it backfired in their face and we were right with our figures," Polisena said.

"They said it was going to cost us more money, they said it was a mistake, that I was putting the burden on the taxpayers — I don't make the decision unless I have all the facts," the mayor added. "For Delta Dental to come out as they did, so viciously and vindictively and attack me personally — they were trying to play politics. They should stick to taking care of peoples' teeth instead of playing politics."

In an email message sent today, Delta Dental Director of Corporate Communications Mary Sommer responded by saying the company could have saved the town even more.

"As a result of our superior contractual discounts with dentists, we believe it is irrefutable that Delta Dental would have saved the Town of Johnston more money than its current carrier," Sommer wrote. "Our contractual savings are worth an additional eight percent over the savings that Mayor Polisena quoted."

Sommer also noted the estimated $200,000 early termination fee that Delta is currently pursuing in court.

"We remain confident that we will prevail in our lawsuit, and demonstrate that it was a bad decision to switch from Delta Dental," Sommer wrote. "We are so confident, in fact, that two years ago, we offered to pay for an independent actuary to conduct an unbiased analysis of the Town of Johnston’s claim experience and savings. That offer still stands.”

Robert "Bobby" Giarusso May 13, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Delta Dental doesn't force their services on anyone. Consumers sign up for the service or their employers enroll them in it. Dentists choose whether or not to accept their reimbursement rates. If you consider the company "sleazy" why do you continue to work with them? If an employee wants to use a dentist that doesn't participate in the Delta Dental network, they don't have to. They can choose to pay out of pocket. They may not like that choice, but it is a choice they have.
Darrell Pruitt May 13, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Bobby G, what motivates you to promote Delta Dental’s unethical business model to naïve consumers? I believe you have even less respect for dentists than for Delta’s clients: “If an employee wants to use a dentist that doesn't participate in the Delta Dental network, they don't have to. They can choose to pay out of pocket. They may not like that choice, but it is a choice they have.” Let me repeat: Castle Dental – listed as one of Delta Dental's 10 top-rated providers in Austin Texas - has an F rating with the Austin Better Business Bureau, while GetHuman suggests that consumers prefer the rudeness of AT&T employees over dealing with Delta Dental's. That’s hard to ignore. The only people I’ve known to defend Delta Dental’s sleazy habits are those with financial interests in sleazy habits. What’s more, dentists universally hate Delta Dental even more than BCBS. How happy should that make Delta clients feel? You already know I’m a dentist and I’m not anonymous. Fair is fair, Bobby G. Are you a Delta employee?
Robert "Bobby" Giarusso May 16, 2012 at 04:13 PM
No, I'm not a Delta employee. Nor am I an employee of any other insurance company. I'm a successful business man. I'm not promoting anything. I'm pointing out the obvious that Delta Dental provides customers a service in exchange for a fee. If customers aren't happy with the value they're receiving, they don't have to renew their control with them. If part of an employee's compensation package includes Delta Dental and the employee finds the service to be subpar, they can either negotiate with their employer for better coverage or seek out-of-network services and pay the difference in cost. Likewise, if dentists don't like working with Delta, they don't have to accept their coverage. You didn't answer my question- why do you continue to work with Delta? Could it be that you find value in accepting Delta? Hmmm. My dentist doesn't accept any insurance. I pay him in cash or using my debit card and then file a claim with the insurance company and they reimburse me. Is it more of a pain for me? Yes, but I get to visit the dentist that I want to, the dentist gets paid, the insurance company doesn't pay a dime extra. We're all happy. If people don't like Castle Dental, they're not required to use their services. There are hundreds of dentists out there. If people can't find a dentist who accepts their insurance, they can go out of network and seek reimbursement. Adults should be able to handle that simple task.
Darrell Pruitt May 16, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Bobby G, It’s easy to see you aren’t a Delta Dental representative. You responded. Even though I know very little about you, at least now I know where you’re coming from. That’s especially important in vigorous internet conversation devoid of visual or vocal clues. It helps prevent one from carelessly jumping to wrong conclusions. Sorry. Now that I understand that you are a successful businessman - and not a successful Delta rep with an interest in misleading employers about discounted dental restorations - I can tell that we aren’t that far apart ideologically: We both appreciate the efficiency of a competitive, open and fair market. It’s the lack of transparency from both Delta and BCBS which separates us as well as confuses Johnston city leaders. Delta Dental Director of Corporate Communications Mary Sommer said "As a result of our superior contractual discounts with dentists, we believe it is irrefutable that Delta Dental would have saved the Town of Johnston more money than its current carrier." So what’s the difference between “superior contractual discounts” and “lowest bidders”?
Darrell Pruitt May 16, 2012 at 09:46 PM
One more thing… Almost all employers understand the importance of quality control. Unlike discount dentistry brokers, businesspeople are directly accountable to end users of their products. Accountability doesn’t exist in the dental benefits industry because those who use them don’t make purchasing decisions. That’s done by uninformed HR personnel with tight budgets. Since Delta and BCBS cannot be held directly accountable to either their clients or their clients’ dentists, quality control has never been important. And that’s why one of Delta’s top ten dental practices in Austin is a Castle Dental franchise - sporting an F rating with the local BBB. If transparency existed in the dental benefits industry, Delta’s and BCBS’s businesses - based only on “superior contractual discounts” - would naturally be unsustainable. And that’s why I’m here. It’s the least I can do for American workers. As far as choosing to work with Delta Dental as an out-of-network dentist, if someone walks into my office with a dental plan which allows them to see the dentist of their choice, I’ll wait for reimbursement as a courtesy. If Delta fails to pay what we estimate they should, my patients understand that they are responsible for the portion not covered. Johnston city employees should be given cash instead. They would be much more likely to spend the money wisely than Delta or BCBS officials who will only blow it on dentists patients don’t like.


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