Quality Dental Plan, founded three years ago in Oregon by Dan Marut, DMD, is an innovative approach to dental care. In the years to come it could prove to be an effective alternative to traditional dental plans across the United States.
The mission statement reads: “At Quality Dental Plan, you save money for the whole family! No ongoing monthly premiums, no cap on services, no hidden fees and no extra charges. Our mission is to help keep family dentistry affordable by eliminating the high monthly premiums and high administrative costs associated with dental insurance plans. QDP offers local, high quality dental care at discount prices!”
Dr. Marut’s plan is showing encouraging signs as it continues to expand across the United States. “I created the Quality Dental Plan three years ago and we went national last November,” said Marut. QDP is spreading quickly; it is already up and running in 28 states. “When people lost their dental benefits, they stopped coming to the dentist. We needed to create for people some sort of benefit that would get them back to the dentists.
“Our solution with Quality Dental Plan was to get the people these benefits in a way that would get them to come to the dentist, sooner rather than later. Dental issues are much easier and cheaper to address early on,” said Marut.
Dr. Marut went on to discuss the wide range of benefits offered by Quality Dental Plan: “One in three people don’t go to the dentist, and the main reason is the cost. Quality Dental Plan gets people the benefits they need to get them to come into the office earlier. This saves them time, money, and significantly improves their health.”
The importance of dental health is an issue that is grossly underestimated by a large majority of Americans. One of the most common misconceptions, which Dr. Marut stressed, is that dental issues are limited to the mouth. “Your mouth is the entryway to your body. Dental disease that effects the mouth can easily effect other parts of the body; your lungs, your heart, your spleen, and more,” said Marut.
The most common dental related problem amongst Americans is gum disease, which Dr. Marut stated afflicts around 80 % of Americans to some degree. Dr. Marut even compared gum disease to other serious bodily diseases: “The main thing with gum disease is that you don’t feel it. Much like heart disease or even diabetes, you don’t truly feel the effects until it is too late. It is slow and progressive and people don’t realize something is wrong until the later stages.”
Here Dr. Marut once again emphasized this is why it is so imperative that Americans get to the dentists frequently, so that their dental problems can be resolved and treated in the earliest stages, when they are the most treatable. Furthermore, in these early stages, treatment is much more affordable. Quality Dental Plan is designed to do just this: get patients into the office early and often.
“It’s a dental plan that shows social responsibility. Quality Dental Plan allows the dental office to work with the people who need it most.”
According to Dr. Marut, Quality Dental Plan is able to offer such affordable prices mainly due to the money saved by the dental office in cutting out insurance companies. “Our plan eliminates the ‘middle man’ created by insurance companies, which defrays cost for both the doctor and patient,” said Marut. “Quality Dental plan creates a very direct relationship between the dentist and the patient. By cutting out the insurance companies, the dental office saves money because they are eliminating the massive amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy that come with dealing with these companies. The dental office is then able to pass these savings along to the patients in the form of benefits.”
QDP’s headquarters in Oregon works to customize the plan for each individual office’s set of circumstances. “Each dental office controls their own plan. We show these different dental offices how to best implement their plan based on their own unique situations,” said Marut.
This past summer, Massachusetts’s legislators passed sweeping budget cuts that eliminated many critical dental services for thousands of citizens, provided by Mass Health. These cuts have and will continue to have a negative impact on the dental health of a substantial chunk of the state’s population, particularly low-income citizens. Since these cuts, many Mass citizens have searched for an affordable dental care option. If QDP continues to grow in popularity, it could be one of those alternatives in the years to come.
The dental office of Mark Fried, Dmd, in Framingham, Massachusetts, is currently the only location in the state offering the Quality Dental Plan. Even there, it is in the earliest stages of development.
“It’s a discount plan for people with no insurance or insurance that has been used up,” said Fried, who went on to explain the logistics of how the plan exactly works. “The patient pays an up-front fee. This fee covers two yearly cleanings plus X-rays and whitening services. Patients also receive a 20 percent discount on fillings. The up-front fee the patient must pay is less than what they would have to pay if they went through insurance.”
Dr. Fried first staked an interest in a plan like QDP when he was fresh out of dental school. Now, with his own practice, he has the opportunity to put the plan into action. “Twenty-five years ago when I first got out of school I worked in an office that had a plan a lot like this and I thought it was a really nice idea. Then just recently I saw Dan’s [Marut’s] company.”
When asked how he felt QDP could help low-income and homeless citizens in Massachusetts, Fried responded by stating, “Well, our plan isn’t free. Our patients still have to pay an up-front fee and pay some smaller fees as they go, but these fees are all diminished. If a patient is financially stable enough to make these payments, the Quality Dental Plan will definitely save them significant amounts of money.”
Based on the early stages of implementation his office is in with QDP, Dr. Fried expressed serious optimism regarding it’s future potential. “We are up and running here with the Quality Dental Plan and it’s going well. It’s generating a lot of interest.”
The cuts to Mass Health dental benefits over the summer have proven to be a devastating blow to thousands of Massachusetts’s citizens. In assessing whether or not Quality Dental Plan represents a feasible option for Massachusetts’s citizens struggling to find affordable dental care, it truly depends on each individual’s financial situation. For those who are homeless or operating on a very low income, the Quality dental plan is not going to be an option due to the up-front fee that patients are required to pay. But for those with slightly more income to work with, Quality Dental Plan is something worth looking into for saving money and receiving adequate dental work.
In this situation, like many, Massachusetts’s homeless and impoverished citizens will once again find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Having lost many of the care options provided by Mass Health, this largely ignored sector of Massachusetts’s population will continue to struggle in the realm of dental health, which for many is the least of their overall problems.