BOSTON (State House News Service) – Voters are being asked this November to decide whether Massachusetts should be the first state in the country to regulate dental insurance premiums by requiring plans to spend at least 83 percent of premiums on care.
But without any real-world experience to benchmark against, the two sides are painting very different pictures of the financial stability of plans and their ability to reallocate expenses to meet the threshold, according to MASSterList.
Supporters of the question are now accusing insurers of a “misinformation campaign” designed to scare consumers into voting no, and launched their first television ad Tuesday targeting Delta Dental, one of the state’s major insurers.
The opponents, funded by dental plans like Delta, have leaned heavily on a June study produced by Milliman Research that suggested under one scenario in order to break even, the average medium-sized plan would need to increase premiums 38 percent and boost claims payments by 63 percent, all while reducing overhead 10 percent just to break even.
The Committee to Protect Access to Quality Dental Care used those figures to conduct a survey that found 57.2 percent of businesses would be “somewhat likely” to decrease employer contributions and 52.3 percent would look to reduce benefits if premiums went up that high.
The Committee on Dental Insurance Fairness and Quality, however, said the threat of a 38 percent premium hike is simply not possible, pointing to a provision in the proposed law that would require the commissioner of insurance to presumptively disapprove any rates that exceed the consumer price index change for dental services. A hearing would follow.
“In fact, the authors of Question 2 intentionally designed language into the question itself … to obstruct premiums from rising. The spirit of the question is to increase value, without increasing cost for businesses and patients,” said Chris Keohane, a spokesman for the “Yes on 2” campaign.
Keohane went on to blame Delta Dental for funding a “fake independent study” and then using it to poll businesses and consumers. He said proponents believe there is more than enough “corporate waste” to meet the threshold, and said Milliman underemphasized things like “excessive salaries,” gifts to parents companies and other areas for savings.
“It is not surprising that Delta Dental, in order to protect their market share, has invested $4.5 Million in a misinformation campaign. Their clever tactics include creating an ‘independent study’ that they funded, provided the data for, and that spat out the lies that they put into it. Garbage in-Garbage out,” Keohane said.
The insurers are defending the Milliman report as the only source of data to rely on, and faulted proponents for trying to compare dental insurers to medical insurers, who also have a loss-ratio requirement but operate on a much larger scale with a greater pool of subscribers over which they can spread overhead costs.
“It’s ironic that the proponents — who put this question on the ballot without a single expert report or review of any kind on the impact to consumers — are being critical of an expert review. In addition, as consumers see in other regulated industries like car and health insurance or electric and gas utilities, just because the rates are regulated doesn’t mean their premiums or rates don’t go up,” the committee said.