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Janis Oshensky Lobbies Congress – Not Dentists

Show Me the Math

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDSpruitt 

I have noted here far too many times how it disappoints me that Delta Dental Plans Association vice president Janis Oshensky repeatedly chooses to turn to politicians rather than discuss Delta Dental’s arguably egregious and harmful policies with me, a dentist. I intend to put a stop to such disrespect one PR expert at a time if necessary.

Long ago I warned Oshensky that if she didn’t talk to me, she should probably just shut up in order to preserve what’s left of her Internet reputation. Since by posting her Letter to the Editor on POLITICO.com today, she obviously ignored my advice, this highly critical comment will reliably join three others of mine on her first page soon enough. Her employer is sacrificing her like a pawn.

The following comment is the one I posted on POLITICO.com in response to Oshensky’s letter. It might just help the vice president to finally come to a decision on this issue one way or the other. Either way, marketplace conversation like this cannot help but lead to safer air for the community … My pleasure.


Dear POLITICO.com Editor:

This comment and subsequent invitation to Janis Oshensky is in response to the Delta Dental Plans Association vice president’s July 14, 2009 letter to you. Her letter is the most recent message she successfully sent Congress using a political news Website. Even though Ms. Oshensky holds the position of VP of dental relations as well as public policy, she has avoided answering this dentist’s questions about Delta Dental’s policies for months. If Ms. Oshensky is willing to do so, I would love for her to join me in discussion of Delta Dental’s taxation subsidy right here on POLITICO.com so that our lawmakers can witness a more balanced view of the issues.

Hello – It’s Me

Hello. My name is D. Kellus; Pruitt DDS, and I’m a practicing dentist in Fort Worth, Texas. It is my professional opinion that my patients are harmed by the policies of managed care dental plans like that sold by DDPA because there is no accountability to their clients or dentists. There is barely any accountability to those who select and pay for Delta’s products – dental patients’ naive bosses.

Like virtually every US citizen, your readers probably couldn’t care less about the dental industry. It is precisely because dentistry has been uninteresting for decades that make the microcosm of health care incredibly interesting to me. Let me uncover for your appreciation the event horizon in dental history. You could learn about more than just dentistry.

If left to natural forces of human nature, what happens to value when there is no accountability? For example, what do the 1975 East German Trabant and the 1979 Ford Pinto have in common? By popular vote, those products not only represent the two worst automobiles ever made, but the state shielded both manufacturers from accountability to consumers. Poor quality happens.

Oshensky argues against the taxation of managed care dental benefits like those sold to employers by Delta Dental. Let me offer that if Delta’s product were taxed like income, its value would quickly dive below the market threshold that attracts purchasers’ consideration.

Allow Me to Show-You the Math

Recently, Delta Dental of Michigan lost the accounts of thousands of GM retirees when their group dental benefits were cut in bankruptcy negotiations with UAW. Suddenly, Delta found itself forced to market their product to individuals who for once have the choice to keep their money. Faced with true competition for healthcare dollars, Delta leaders desperately cobbled together individual policies for the retirees who want to continue with their coverage. Even though Delta did everything possible to lower the cost of their coverage, the cheapest of the plans they offered still runs about $30 per person per month, and covers only 50% of everything, including preventive. So for premiums of $360 per year plus half the preferred providers’ 20% to 30% discounted fees, is this a bargain for Michigan retirees?

Free Markets 

In my free-market, fee-for-service practice, if a patient comes in for two cleanings and routine x-rays during a year, 100% of my bill is $208. This is the market price in my neighborhood that is continually challenged by lively competition with other dentists for new patients who may not even have dental benefits. Those customers pay in full at the time of visit, just like most people whose bosses purchased Delta Dental Plans.

Value Comparisons

So let’s compare value of Delta Dental’s product with cash. If I were a Delta Dental preferred provider, my fee of $208, less Delta’s 25% discount would be $156. Never mind that my wife has problems with my 70% cut in pay, let’s move on. 

The patient’s half of the $156 I earned is $78. $360 + $78 = $438. So for one uneventful year of discounted dental services with a dentist chosen from a list of names, a patient can expect to spend more than twice as much than if they paid the free-market price at the point of service.


Not only is that hardly a bargain, but it is my opinion that managed care dentistry is dentistry by the lowest bidder with no quality control. That should be enough meat to get this conversation rolling. Now it’s your turn Ms. Oshensky. I think you have to admit that you’ve got holes to mend in the dental relations part of your job.


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