Washington Dentists File No-Confidence Petition with Delta Dental

Michael W. Davis, DDS


Nearly 1,500 Washington State dentists filed a no-confidence petition with Delta Dental of Washington on March 16, 2018. Delta Dental of Washington (aka Washington Dental Service-WDS) is incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(4).

As such, this particular insurance carrier is mandated by its charter bylaws to act under the authority of its member-dentists. Yet the dentists who filed the petition say the state’s largest dental insurance provider requires new leadership and direction. 

Member dentists have overwhelmingly lost confidence in the leadership of Delta Dental’s CEO and president James Dwyer, who has announced plans to retire in January 2019. The petitioners request the immediate removal of Dwyer and a successor who will focus on core values of patient care, responsive governance, and transparency. 

“It’s important that the WDS Board of Directors understand that their members will not accept a ‘business as usual’ transition,” said one of the petition’s organizers, Cynthia Pauley, DDS, who also currently serves as the president of the Washington State Dental Association (WSDA).

“Under Mr. Dwyer’s tenure, Washington Dental Service, which should be a key partner with our profession in driving better patient outcomes, has instead become a barrier and antagonist to the dental profession,” Pauley said.

“We see this as a critically important moment for the future of oral health in our state and a crucial inflection point for the relationship between Washington’s dental community and our largest carrier of dental insurance coverage,” said Pauley.   

In September 2017, a special meeting of Delta Dental of Washington member dentists was held, with hundreds of member dentists from across the state attending and many bringing proxies from their fellow dentists who could not attend.

Of the more than 2,300 votes cast, more than 91% supported the proposed amendments. These changes were primarily designed to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and make Delta more responsive to both patients and members. 

“The Delta board not only vetoed most of the proposed changes, but it also cancelled the annual membership meeting normally held in the fall. Given these actions, member dentist frustration with WDS continues to grow,” said Chris Delecki, DDS, another petition organizer and WSDA president-elect.

“We believe that substantive and positive change cannot occur until Mr. Dwyer is replaced with a new executive that genuinely treats members as partners and patients as customers,” Delecki said. “This is a unique opportunity for the board to take positive action that its member dentists believe is necessary to improve the patient and provider focus at WDS, for our patients and our profession.”

Dr. Davis practices general dentistry in Santa Fe, NM. He assists as an expert witness in dental fraud and malpractice legal cases. He currently chairs the Santa Fe District Dental Society Peer-Review Committee and serves as a state dental association member to its house of delegates. He extensively writes and lectures on related matters. He may be reached at mwdavisdds@comcast.net or smilesofsantafe.com.

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