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Entries in WDS (59)


Bill Ending Antitrust Exemption For Insurance Companies Passes House

On Thursday, the "Help Efficient, Acessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of of 2011 passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives. The primary intent of the HEALTH Act is medical tort reform but one ammendment would modify the McCarran-Ferguson act which provides helath insurance companies an exemption from federal ant-trust laws. Under current law, dentists and other health care providers fall under the jurisdiction of anti-trust law but health insurance companies do not. Passage of the HEALTH Act would directly impacted dental insurance providers in Washington state.

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Summary of WDS Bylaw Changes

Provided by Concerned Dentists of Washington State

On November 11, the WDS member dentists overwhelmingly passed a set of bylaw changes to WDS.  Under Article X, Section 1 of the bylaws, the Independent Directors have to approve amendments to certain bylaw provisions.  On December 15, WDS sent a color-coded sheet to summarize those changes accepted by the independent Directors and those that were rejected.  This is a summary of those changes which are now included as WDS bylaws.  CDWS board members are now arranging a meeting with the WDS board to discuss further revisions.

1.    Membership meetings.  Changes APPROVED .  Membership meetings will now play a more prominent role in the WDS governance.  The meetings will occur at a location near the WDS headquarters large enough to accommodate 25% of the member dentists.  Notice of the meeting, with an agenda, must be mailed to all member dentists in advance and cannot be buried in a different publication.

2.    Actions by members.  Changes APPROVED.  Members may physically attend the meeting and cast a vote or designate a full or limited proxy to vote on the member’s behalf.  Formerly, proxy voting was not permitted, and as a practical matter, there were not physical meetings.  Mail-in ballots or action without a meeting is no longer permitted; for those members unable to attend, they can cast a proxy instead of a mail-in ballot.   The key is that the former practice of membership decisions without a meeting for deliberation and debate are no longer permitted.

3.    Popular election of member directors.  Changes REJECTED.  Candidates for member directors are still chosen by a governance and nominating committee of the board rather than nominated from amongst the members.

4.    Independent director superpowers.  Changes REJECTED.  The nomination, election, and removal of Independent Directors is reserved for the Independent Directors, not the entire board.  CDWS believes this conflicts with Washington state law, specifically RCW 24.03.115.  Nevertheless, the effort to reserve these decisions to the entire board (which is still controlled by the Independent Directors) was rejected.

5.    Committee appointments.  Changes MOSTLY APPROVED.  Formerly, board committee members were usually appointed by the chair of the board in consultation with the CEO.  Now the committee appointments are made by the entire board, with the exception of the Independent Directors on the Provider Compensation Committee.

6.    Amendment to bylaws.  Changes PARTIALLY APPROVED.  Bylaw changes now require 2/3 member vote at a meeting rather than the mail-in ballots formerly used by WDS management.   Certain bylaw changes required the approval of Independent Directors.  This section was deleted by the members, but the amendment was rejected by the Independent Directors even though it was not one of the sections subject to Independent Director approval.

7.    Information.  Changes APPROVED.  WDS must send a copy of its audited financial statements to its members no later than 7 months after the close of the year.  It must include a general discussion about the state of the market and the profession, and provide an analysis of the compensation and incentives it provides to its executives the way public companies do.


WDS Post Meeting

I just read the WDS board version of Rodney King’s “can’t we all just get along?”  They asked that we patiently read and consider their response to member supported amendments, as they listened and considered our concerns.  They then, of course, rejected all meaningful changes under the guise that it may hamper their antitrust concerns.  Mr. Dwyer asked that we all should try to have a meaningful dialog.  Curious, that that dialogue didn’t ever occur prior to slash and burn tactics of last spring.

I think it’s tragic, that, due to the perverse nature of non-profit law, a company like WDS can operate in its own vacuum of autonomy, not subject to shareholder’s protests, insulated from strikes by its workers (us) and free to use its cash horde in any way that its oligarchy sees fit.  Since it can’t declare profits, why not just divey up the money in salaries and benefits for the club.

Try to imagine WDS as a for-profit corporation.  Dentists could even be shareholders.  We might even get a dividend the next time WDS slashed fees to providers and kept more money.  We could elect directors at a shareholder’s meeting and maybe even fire the CEO if their performance was subpar. 

Alas, WDS uses its not-for-profit status like a magic cape to hide behind.  When it chooses, it tells us the many things it can’t do, for fear of unfairly benefiting its providers. I thought a non-profit status implied that that business was either a charity and/or for public benefit.  I guess, since Boeing can apply as much pressure as it wants to grind us down; it must be for public benefit.  It also uses the cape to hide behind if anyone calls it a monopoly.  Ask any Olympia dentist if they can function without belonging to the WDS PPO.  Strange, how WDS management has forgotten that it became the state’s largest dental insurance company by the support of its member dentists.  We started it and built it to its present status and now it is no better that any other PPO except that it holds too large of a percentage of patients in most offices.

To its credit, WDS picked an opportune business time to “adjust” fees.  Even though we had had no fee increase for 3 years, the current slow economy allowed them to “adjust” at a time when few of us can afford sever our relationship with them.  What they don’t realize is that even though we can’t collectively fight them, they have created an army of individual dentists who will “unfriend” them.  Who will talk to the patients in their individual offices who are decision makers for their companies or union leaders and suggest that at the next contract, they deal with an insurance company that will consider ethical treatment of its providers, a priority.  I’m sure we will see a resurgence in our efforts to increase direct reimbursement plans.  Perhaps when the economy turns around and many of our patients regain benefits, many individual dentists will then sever this tenuous relationship.

Watch healthcare company ads on TV, or listen to WDS baseball radio ads; insurance companies would have you believe that it is the insurance company that is there to take care of you, not the healthcare provider, MD, DDS (okay DMDs too) nurse or hygienist who delivers treatment.  If they say it long enough and convince the public, we have lost the battle and we might as well just do as they say.  

BTW, did I mention the Withhold?

-Dr. Tim Wandell, DDS
Hoquiam, WA


CDWS Responds to WDS's Latest Communication

Click here to read the Concerned Dentists of Washington State's response to Washington Dental Service's letter to members titled "A Few Facts You May Not Know about WDS's Governance"