Delta Dental has grown to be the state’s largest dental benefits company by partnering well with its member-dentists, paying competitive reimbursement fees and keeping patient costs in check.

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Dr. Craig Neal, in a recent Op-Ed [“You and your dentist may have a bone to pick with Delta Dental,” Nov. 5, Opinion], leads the reader to believe Washington dentists are caught in an unfair position with Delta Dental, the state’s largest dental-benefits company. Unfortunately, this relied more on spin than fact. As the CEO of Delta Dental, I feel compelled to speak up on behalf of Delta Dental employees and millions of patients covered in Washington state.

Our state’s dentists have many insurer options. Delta Dental’s provider network comprises more than 4,500 member-dentists, many of whom operate their own practice. These dentists have personally opted into the Delta Dental network, which covers the most patients in our state, including many of Washington’s largest public and private employers. This means dentists who choose to partner with us can serve more patients who have quality benefits. We pay competitive reimbursement fees which are, on average, higher than those paid to providers in most other states.

At the same time, the patients we serve have seen their premiums decline, on average, over the last five years. And last year, we disallowed less than one-half of 1 percent of the almost 15 million dental procedures submitted for processing.

The other side

Dr. Craig E. Neal, an oral surgeon and president of the Seattle/King County Dental Society, recently wrote that “this isn’t just a spat between the state’s largest dental-benefits provider and its member dentists. As patients, the public has a significant stake in the outcome.” Go online to read Neal’s Op-Ed:

Adding an independent review board, administered by the Insurance Commissioner’s Office, to deal with disputed claims, as suggested by Dr. Neal, won’t protect patients. It will increase the cost of administering these millions of claims for patients and their families across the state, which could raise costs for their dental care.

Dr. Neal alleges that Delta Dental is putting advertising and overhead before patient care. Nothing could be further from the truth. We invest in oral health for all through education, training, philanthropy and support for crucial innovation. Our Arcora Foundation is the state’s largest foundation committed to improving oral health, and provides annually $9 million for oral health education and care as well as training for dentists who treat patients in underserved communities.

Delta Dental’s member-dentists also enjoy a level of transparency and accountability unlike any other. Since its inception more than 60 years ago, member-dentists have served on Delta Dental’s independent board of directors — the only insurer in the state that has dentists on its board.

It is true that these independent directors recently rejected several bylaw amendments proposed by a vocal minority of member-dentists. But the rejected amendments fell into one of two categories: those which would have put us at risk of violating antitrust laws, and those which interfered with the board’s fiduciary responsibility to manage the organization for long-term sustainability and our broad oral-health mission. Some would have held the organization to an unprecedented and fiscally untenable requirement unheard of in either the medical or dental fields.

The dental industry is changing, and dentists are now facing the challenges to their business model that have impacted our medical counterparts for the past two decades. These industrywide shifts are significant and need to be addressed, but the solutions offered need to address the challenge rather than scapegoat Delta Dental. To address these issues head-on, we will continue to work closely with innovators in oral health to improve business practices for our member-dentists and expand coverage for patients in Washington.

As always, our priority is to ensure quality care is accessible to as many of our Washington neighbors as possible. We are committed to open dialogue and will continue to work with our member-dentists to uphold our commitments to the patients we serve and to the broader community — together.