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More dental insurers spend to stop Question 2

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Records filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance before the Oct. 20 deadline show several other major insurance companies writing checks to defeat Question 2 in next month’s ballot. These donations bring industry fundraising from nearly $5 million to approximately $7.5 million, to roll back a measure requiring dental plans to spend as much as 83 percent of the premiums they collect on patient care as well as imposing new financial disclosure rules. That’s more than many insurers are currently spending.

MetLife donated $650,000 earlier this month, in addition to $220,000 in May. Other insurers that contributed to the Delta Dental-backed voting committee this month include Altus Dental ($75,000), Principal Life Insurance ($250,000) and Sun Life Financial ($200,000). As with MetLife, Sun Life and Principal gave smaller amounts earlier in the year.

Principal also helped create a separate opposition committee, with an additional $580,000, as well as $350,000 from MetLife, $500,000 from Guardian Life and assistance from the staff of the American Council of Life Insurers.

Despite all the dollars from the insurance industry, dentists and their professional groups who support Question 2 have raised even more: over $9 million so far, including $5 million from American Dental Association. More than 300 dentists have now contributed, including dozens from other states; orthodontist Mouhab Rizkallah, the original reporter for question 2, is by far the largest individual contributor.

Dentists say more premium dollars will go to patient care if voters approve Question 2, while insurers say patient care will be hit by new restrictions on their industry.

Jack Dolan, a spokesman for the Council of Life Insurers, said the ACLI got involved because Issue 2 “would make it more difficult for many employers and families to access dental coverage.”

And Sun Life spokeswoman Cynthia Michener said her company believes that imposing an 83% dental loss ratio would lead to increased costs for dental insurers. That, in turn, could cause some insurers to drop certain types of plans or drive them out of the market altogether, she said, which will hurt patients’ access to dental care.

Meanwhile, the dentists say insurers can take different approaches to hitting the 83% minimum, such as cutting premiums, cutting administrative expenses or providing more coverage for procedures.

Andrew Tonelli, co-chair of the Massachusetts Dental Society’s government affairs committee, said if insurers increase premiums to meet this new threshold, they would also have to increase benefits, likely at a faster pace.

“Right now insurers have very little incentive to cover things,” said Tonelli, a dentist with a practice in North Reading, “[beyond] just enough to not get intense backlash from customers.

He had anticipated that other insurers would pour more money into the fight to beat Question 2.

“We always expected insurers to have deeper pockets they could go into,” Tonelli added. look in those pockets.”

For its part, Delta Dental did not add more funds to the “no” campaign in October, at least as of the most recent filing, despite the insurer running a marketing campaign that does not mention the issue. 2. Tonelli said he believes Delta Dental is using its marketing funds to curry favor with voters, ahead of the vote on Question 2.

The Charlestown-based nonprofit insurer maintains that the two campaigns are separate. Chief Executive Dennis Leonard released a statement on Friday saying Delta Dental’s “Express Your Health” campaign is part of Delta Dental’s ongoing efforts to ensure people understand the connection between oral health and overall health. , and to encourage them to see dentists for preventive care, and is not related to question 2.


Jon Chesto can be contacted at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.



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