Viewpoint: Why new bill would be bad for Oklahoma dental patients

·2 min read
John Gladden is the president and CEO of Delta Dental of Oklahoma.
John Gladden is the president and CEO of Delta Dental of Oklahoma.

Oklahomans overwhelmingly cite cost as the No. 1 reason they do not visit the dentist, according to the American Dental Association’s own Health Policy Institute study (

With their national association’s quantifiable data at their disposal, I am confused and deeply concerned to see the Oklahoma Dental Association championing a bill at the state Capitol that will increase the cost of dental care for millions of Oklahomans. It’s especially concerning given our state’s "D" score on the Oklahoma Oral Health Report Card.

In a dentist’s contract with an insurance carrier, House Bill 3023 seeks to abolish common provisions that exist to save Oklahomans money and protect patients from excessive and/or inaccurate charges. At Delta Dental of Oklahoma (DDOK), our processing policies are established by active, practicing dentists and are based on standard, widely accepted practices. HB 3023 prevents insurers from holding dentists to contracted fees and handcuffs DDOK and other insurance companies’ ability to advocate on behalf of their members regarding charges.

HB 3023 was recently amended to propose a narrowed definition of “covered services,” leaving patients vulnerable to increased costs for dental services that exceed their yearly maximum, and subjects Oklahomans to unexpected charges for services traditionally reimbursed.

For Oklahomans to receive proper dental care, we must have dentists. DDOK is proud to have 95% of dentists in the state participating in one of our networks. Our Foundation has given millions to the Oklahoma Dental Association, the Oklahoma Dental Foundation and the OU College of Dentistry to fund initiatives aimed at lowering barriers to dental care.

As it stands, DDOK can NOT support HB 3023 because it adversely affects patients. We administer dental benefits for more than one million Oklahomans — it is our responsibility to create quality plans that balance the interests of patients and dentists.

HB 3023 is one-sided, benefiting the special interests of dentists at the expense of millions of Oklahoma patients. If HB 3023 were to become reality, DDOK members alone would face more than $15 million annually out-of-pocket for their dental care.

On Feb. 16, the House insurance committee advanced HB 3023 with a clear directive to bill author Rep. Rande Worthen: Work with all parties to revise the bill into measured legislation that does not solely benefit one constituency. We stand at the ready to negotiate with the Oklahoma Dental Association — but we will not back down from protecting our members and prioritizing the oral health of Oklahomans.

John Gladden is the president and CEO of Delta Dental of Oklahoma.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Viewpoint: New bill could increase dental costs for Oklahoma patients