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.”

Darrell Pruitt May 07, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Think about it. This fight is over which discount dentistry broker can pay dentists the least. Dentistry by the lowest bidders with no quality control.
Robert "Bobby" Giarusso May 08, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Darrell- Doctors, including Dentists, welcome insurance and are willing to accept a lower rate for their services for numerous reasons. First, they can be assured that they're going to be paid. Insurance companies don't stiff doctors like some patients might. Second, doctors are able to 'write off' the difference between the contracted rate for services and what they would otherwise be compensated by a patient. This lowers their tax liability. Additionally, by accepting insurance the doctors are able to offer their services to more patients. How many people would go to a doctor if they didn't accept insurance? Not many. So by taking insurance their potential client base increases. And don't fool yourself. There are quality controls in places. Doctors must be licensed and board certified before many insurance companies will work with them. The doctors also must maintain a good record with patients. If patients complain to their insurance companies about the work performed by a doctor, that is all logged and tracked. Insurance companies can cease doing business with a doctor if their work is subpar.
Curly May 08, 2012 at 03:52 PM
You are mistaken Bobby G. Dentists do not get a tax break for discounting fees. You can't get a deduction for something you were never going to get paid for in the first place. They can't "write off" discounted fees.
Darrell Pruitt May 08, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Bobby G, Curly is right. You are mistaken. You aren't even close. All Delta and BCBS sell is “discount.” There is no quality control. As a dentist who has to deal with the sleazy ethics of both BCBS and Delta Dental officials, I sincerely cannot imagine where you get your information about their high quality standards unless it’s from their own lies. Neither of the discount dentistry brokers pay dentists enough to make the notion of quality control anything more than a cruel joke to naïve and misled clients. Let me prove it. Dentistry isn't like purchasing pork and beans off the shelf. It is intricate handwork done in sensitive mouths. So if Delta dentists have to rush their work to cover their expenses, do you think that improves the quality of dentistry or destroys it? Let’s look at how badly Delta Dental treats its clients here in Texas: Recently, it was revealed that in Austin, 4 of the top 10 listed DeltaCare USA dental practices are Castle Dental franchises. Castle Dental has an F rating with the Austin Better Business Bureau. There is no quality control, Bobby G. That’s just a harmful rumor.
Darrell Pruitt May 08, 2012 at 11:02 PM
The word is getting around about Delta Dental’s lack of respect for not only dentists, but their clients as well. According to GetHuman Reviews (reviews.gethuman.com) - a website on which customers express how much they hate huge, insensitive business dinosaurs - Delta Dental scores an “excuse-me” satisfaction score of 1.9 out of 5. http://reviews.gethuman.com/ratings/Delta-Dental/ As comparison, according to a January Yahoo! Finance article by Douglas A. McIntyre, Facebook is reported to be the most hated company in America, and it scores a 1.6. (See: “The 10 Most Hated Companies in America”). http://finance.yahoo.com/news/the-10-most-hated-companies-in-america.html?page=all Delta Dental’s GetHuman rating of 1.9 out of 5 is only marginally better than Facebook’s 1.6, but far worse than the 2nd and 3rd most hated companies in America according to McIntyre: American Airlines at 3.9 and AT&T at 3.6. That’s right. Customers prefer prying responses from anonymous AT&T employees than Delta Dental’s! “Customers report that Delta Dental is not good at supporting customers who have an issue. They sometimes find Delta Dental representatives hard to understand when working with them. Delta Dental customers also report that wait times can be long when trying to get support.” – GetHuman. BCBS is no more honest about the quality of discounted dentistry as Delta Dental.
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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