Dentist joins plan that offers affordable care to uninsured

Dentist joins plan that offers affordable care to uninsured

By Jesse Rininger Special to the Courier & Press

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One in three adults has not been to the dentist in the past year.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 108 million Americans are without dental insurance, and dental problems account for 164 million hours of missed work, 51 million days of missed school and 41 million days of restricted activities.

These are statistics Evansville’s Dr. Chris Meunier hopes to combat.

Meunier of Reliant Family Dental has brought Quality Dental Plan to the Evansville area to help.

QDP is a personalized program allowing dentists to structure the program to match their practices. Formed by dentists across the country, the plan offers free services and reduced prices on procedures to uninsured dental patients.

Meunier began offering an adaptation of QDP three months ago. His version of the program requires a $229 annual fee for individuals and $249 for each additional family member. Members pay nothing for preventive care such as cleanings, X-rays, exams and tooth whitening.

“It’s kind of like Sam’s Club or Costco,” Meunier said. “You pay a yearly fee and you get all these free or reduced services.”

Meunier said he wanted to offer something geared to patients without dental insurance, and QDP was the answer.

“A lot of times, if someone doesn’t have insurance, they just won’t go to the dentist,” he said. “Then, something that would have been a simple procedure turns into an expensive, urgent operation.”

QDP cuts out the insurance middle man. Before, Meunier’s staff handled insurance companies on a daily basis.

“With this plan, there is pretty much no paperwork,” Meunier said. “We don’t have to deal with any third party, and it just makes our lives a lot easier.”

With QDP, many insurance fees and constraints are eliminated. Meunier said there is no deductible, no annual maximum and no waiting period.

“A lot of times with dental insurance, you have to wait 60 days or 90 days before you can use it, and they might only cover $1,000 a year,” Meunier said. “With (QDP), there is none of that. You can use it from day one and as many times a year as you need to.”

Meunier first heard of QDP in December 2009. A friend and colleague in Indianapolis already was participating in the program and passed on information to Meunier.

“He said it was working for him,” Meunier said. “I thought this might be a good idea, and he reassured me.”

Affordable plans such as QDP may bring more patients into the office. Meunier said his goal is to provide care for more people who need it most.

“If I can offer people a way to come in, we are going to prevent more problems,” Meunier said. “We are going to have a healthier community because we will have less people with dental problems.”

QDP was conceived in 2009 by two dentists from Oregon, Drs. Dan Marut and Samantha Stephens. Marut said most patients feel they need insurance benefits to obtain health care — insurance they cannot afford.

“Any time a third party is part of any economic transaction, their need to make a profit raises the costs and, ultimately, the price of that economic model,” Marut said. “It is no different in health care or in our dental practices.”

Though the approach to QDP varies at each dental practice, Marut said, the goal remains simple and uniform.

“We want to incentivize patients to have a preventive approach to dentistry,” Marut said. “If we increase access to restorative and elective care, and do so in a sustainable way that makes sense for the dental practice and the patient, we have succeeded.”

Advertising the program on a dental practice level has proved difficult.

Meunier said he just hasn’t had the opportunity to, but he hopes soon a to alert residents of his program.

“This is going to get bigger,” Meunier said. “It just hasn’t taken the nation by storm yet.”