Most dentists in the United States have not heard of the Massachusetts Dentists Alliance for Quality Care. We are a group of dentists who are passionate about private practice and maintaining an excellent standard of care in our profession and for our patients.
In recent years, many of us have felt that organized dentistry’s advocacy for private practice has declined. In all fairness, not every dentist is in private practice. Many are working for dental service organizations (DSOs), academia, insurance companies, and other fields. The ADA and state organizations represent all dentists, not just one special interest group.
Last year, several dentists in Massachusetts decided to seek legal advice and petition our Attorney General in response to a contract received from Delta Dental of MA (currently called Total Choice PPO). Not only did we raise enough money to file a formal petition with the Attorney General, but we also formed a group that has grown to more than 60 members today.
In July, we voiced our concerns to the Division of Insurance at a hearing regarding a “new fee methodology” proposed by Delta Dental that would automatically decrease reimbursements to the entire network of Premier providers in the state. To date, we continue to educate our legislators and advocate for private practice dentists, as well as mentor students and recent graduates.
Although Delta Dental’s new for-profit Total Choice PPO was approved in our state, Delta continues to sell the non-profit Premier plan (96% of dentists in Massachusetts are Premier providers). In June of this year, it was announced that our state dental society decided to make a deal with Delta Dental of MA to cut all of the Premier dentists’ reimbursements by 10%.
This 10% “recalibration,” a euphemism for lower reimbursements, will affect that 96% of dentists in our state. Conversely, the Total Choice plan that offers a larger 30% discount has not been less popular with employers in Massachusetts and has far fewer contracted participating dentists.
Many dentists in our state understand these subtleties and were extremely upset by the decision of the leadership of the Massachusetts Dental Society, while other dentists may not be paying attention to these small details or fear retribution for getting involved.
Now is not the time to sit back and let others figure out the details that affect the future of our profession. Do you recall what has happened to primary care physicians? Not only have they been forced to work increasingly faster by insurance companies, but the quality of patient care also has suffered as a result. This is especially important for the younger generation of dentists to understand, as they will need to work faster and longer hours to try to make a living with ever decreasing reimbursements and huge amounts of student loan debt.
It is our hope that organized dentistry in our country will learn from the mistakes of the American Medical Association and try to slow the corporatization of dentistry and the reliance on dental benefit companies. We would like to see more support for the private practitioner members who, in fact, serve most patients in our country.
The Massachusetts Dentists Alliance for Quality Care is continuing its work on behalf of our profession. We believe that by educating our legislators, we will have a stronger voice in our state government. We also believe there is hope for our future and welcome as many dentists who are interested in becoming part of this movement to join our group.
Stand up, fellow dentists. It is time to make your voice heard. The time to make a difference is now!
Dr. Tanzi, a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, has more than 18 years of private practice experience. She started The Dentist at Hopkinton in Hopkinton, Mass, 15 years ago near the starting line of the Boston Marathon. Passionate about issues facing dentists and private practice, she is also a founding member of the MA Dentists Alliance for Quality Care, which advocates for private practice dentistry and high quality dental care for patients. She can be reached at email@example.com.