Question 2 on the Massachusetts statewide ballot is very simple: 83% of the money dental insurance companies collect from you, the patients, should be spent on dental care, otherwise you get the difference back. That’s why a yes vote on Question 2 is so critical on Nov. 8.
Opponents of Question 2 want to make it seem more complex than that. Why? Because they benefit from the status quo.
But in the end, it is patients who will benefit if dental insurance companies are required to spend at least 83% of patient premiums on actual dental care. If dental plans don’t meet that requirement, they would have to refund the difference to covered individuals and groups. Patients also deserve visibility into how their premiums are being spent and to be protected from large increases in dental insurance premiums. Question 2 would do that, too.
What would it mean if Question 2 became law in Massachusetts? You would know how insurance companies are spending your premiums so you can get the care you need. Also, this added transparency will ensure consumers get the most value for what they pay for — or receive a refund for the difference. That’s what this grassroots initiative is all about, and why we are joining together to urge Massachusetts voters to support a yes vote on Question 2 on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot.
According to an independent report by the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University, “it’s not clear whether dental insurers are currently close to — or far from — the proposed 83 percent requirement,” but “the limited information we do have suggests dental insurers could probably adapt to the 83 percent standard, just as medical insurers did with the similar standards set by the Affordable Care Act.”
The Tufts report continues, “Insurance is supposed to help patients manage risk and afford necessary care — not help insurers generate excessive profits or maintain high administrative costs. In order to get insurers to focus more on care, Question 2 borrows from the world of medical insurance, where minimum loss ratios are already the standard.”
Massachusetts currently requires medical insurers to spend at least 88% of health insurance premiums on patient care rather than administrative expenses. The Affordable Care Act set similar national minimums, which has had minimal impact on the insurance market, according to an Urban Institute study, but has delivered $1.1 billion in rebates to health insurance customers in 2011 alone. However, there is currently no similar requirement for dental insurers.
Several other states have already adopted laws requiring dental insurers to file annual financial reports to disclose the percentage of premium dollars that are spent on patient care. A study published in Health Affairs found in California that dental plans only dedicate an average of 76% of premiums toward care, significantly below medical plan requirements. This leaves dental patients picking up the tab to cover the higher out-of-pocket costs and noncovered dental care expenses, while dental insurance providers pocket the rest of their premium dollars for administrative costs, executive pay and corporate profits.
Whether or not we are voters in Massachusetts, dentists across the country want to stand together with Massachusetts dental patients in this important fight to protect and advocate for consumers.
There is a reason why so many national and Massachusetts-based health and dental groups have endorsed a yes vote on Question 2. There are important long-term benefits at stake for consumers who deserve to get the dental care they pay for. That’s why this important, patient-centered ballot question in Massachusetts deserves every voter’s attention. It represents an opportunity for Massachusetts to once again lead the way in important consumer and health care advocacy.
The American Dental Association and Massachusetts Dental Society support the campaign to advance this consumer protection with the help of other organizations and individuals across Massachusetts. Your vote could signal not only important benefits for Massachusetts patients, but also for dental insurance reform nationwide.
It is not surprising that big dental insurance companies are bankrolling deceptive ads trying to mislead voters about Question 2’s important consumer protections. Their claims are not credible and misrepresent the facts. That’s because they know that in the end, Question 2 means less money for dental insurance company profits, and more of your premiums being dedicated to the dental care of working families.
We urge voters to look into the facts about Question 2 at VoteYESon2forDental.com.
Meredith Bailey, D.M.D., is president of the Massachusetts Dental Society. Cesar Sabates, D.D.S., is president of the American Dental Association.