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Washington State Dental Association

To Mr. James Dwyer and the WDS Board of Directors - Dr. Robert L. Odegard DDS, MAGD

April 15th, 2011

To Mr. James Dwyer and the WDS Board of Directors,

This is a letter in response to the recent letter I received from the WDS board of directors dated April 4th 2011. The letter states that WDS is considering restructuring its dental fees effective June 15th by lowering fees for most providers because employers are demanding lower premium rates from WDS. I contend that not only is this unnecessary but that it is not in the best interest of WDS.

As hard working dentists, we have labored over the years to provide quality dental care in our wonderful state of Washington. It is on the backs of our labor that that WDS has become the company that it is today. In return, WDS has helped dentists in Washington State prosper and provide excellent dentistry for its subscribers. In fact, I feel that our state offers its citizens the best dental care available any where in the world partly because of the partnership that the dentists have with WDS. The relationship that Washington State dentists have with WDS is symbiotic and has resulted in benefits to the providers, WDS, and all of our wonderful patients. Brewing from this is a unique and wonderful benefit to employers, as well as their employees. I have always been appreciative of this excellent relationship and have conveyed that often to my patients and other dentists who have talked poorly of WDS. Now, I am shocked and hurt that WDS is choosing to be quite short sighted and is back stabbing us, the providers, who have made them the great organization that they have become.

It is true that we as a nation are facing tough economic times but the economy is not as bad as the media portrays. Yes, gas prices are rising and making it tough on working families, including our hard working dental employees. However, even in the down economy my dental practice is still thriving and improving through a strong optimistic vision that I have instilled in my staff and my patients. Our vision and commitment to excellence and prosperity is propelling us to achieve a successful dental practice. I am not cutting the wages of my staff who have made my practice the success that it is today. I understand that the economy is hurting them through higher gas prices and for some, unemployment of a spouse. Instead of losing hope and taking an attitude of scarcity and gloom, which attracts more of the same, I am raising my staff wages. They are the ones that give their hearts to my practice and they need better incomes to succeed in this economy. Most importantly, I know that If they succeed then I succeed. They tell all my patients what a great dental office we have, how much they love their jobs and our reputation grows in the community. I am on their side and I need their good spirit to help prosper my practice. That is our vision and we stick with it. Taking an attitude of scarcity and cutting my staff wages will not foster a prosperous dental office no matter how efficient we become. It is our vision that carries us towards opportunities and success.

I think that WDS is making a huge mistake for themselves in cutting the dentists fees. It not only is an act of dis-loyalty, it will serve to drive a wedge between dental practitioners and WDS. Instead of a mutually beneficial and productive relationship for both dentists and WDS, this is an act of separation. No successful corporation has ever prospered by having an attitude of scarcity and cutting the wages of the people who have made them great. It tells me that WDS is small thinking and is headed in a downward direction. Rather than cut the dentists throats who have built WDS on the backs of their hard labor, WDS would serve itself better, and in my opinion be more prosperous, if they were to become more efficient inside of their own organization and in fact, raise the dentists fees. Why?, because by raising the dentists fees, the dental practices will become more successful and more efficient. This in turn will strengthen the affiliation between the providers and WDS and heighten the publics opinion of WDS. You see, the prosperity of WDS is primarily founded on a good reputation with Washington State dentists and the general public. As dentists, we are interacting with the general public on a very personal level every day. If WDS isolates themselves from the dentists, thinking that they will prosper by the small amount of money that they save, they are fiercely mistaken. Quite the opposite is true. WDS’ opinion in the eyes of the general public will slide rapidly downward, due to a negative feeling the dentists across the state will share towards WDS and your organization will slowly shrink in size and prosperity- which we all know is not the intent of WDS. Success is about having a strong vision and sticking with it. It is about thinking “Win, Win” even when things get tough.

Dentists have suffered a great deal from the economic conditions. People have stopped spending money on elective dental care and non-insured treatment. We are facing higher costs for dental supplies, equipment, staff salaries, dental lab work, advertising, maintenance, and every category associated with operating a small dental business. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to make a profit let alone take any time off for a vacation, pay for retirement or medical insurance.

Did WDS do any internal cost cutting such as reducing their managers’ and employee wages? Did they reduce their staff numbers? This might be a great place to start rather than cutting the dentists fees -their golden goose. What they also should do is raise the annual maximums that they allow per patient. This will make their plans much more attractive to employers who are comparing other insurance plans for their employees. Employers want good benefits for their employees and annual maximums speaks loudly to them above all other comparison factors.

I feel that WDS needs a leader who has a positive and uplifting vision of growth and prosperity, of where they want to go and where they want to be in 5 or 10 or 20 years. They need a positive and optimistic outlook which fosters creativity. This will do more to pull them out of this recession than cutting out their allies. It is obvious by this move that the leaders of WDS are being short sided, small minded and possibly lack a vision or mission. It seems like they are reacting out of fear without thinking about their long term vision and values.. How can cutting the dentists fees actually be good for the long term vision of WDS? They can not compete and prosper if they do not have the dentists on their side.

We all want to succeed and prosper financially. We, as dentists want WDS to succeed and be financially prosperous because it is good for both of us. The Washington State dentists are on your side. We are your greatest assets. Instead of spending advertising dollars on radio ads and Mariner baseball etc., I would suggest that WDS work with the dentists in helping build their reputation to the general public. WDS money would be better spent helping dentists go to bat for them and promote them to their patients every day. Washington State dentists can do more good to build the reputation of WDS and potentially generate more contracts and revenue for them than they can by spending useless dollars or radio ads.

As a member of WDS for over 20 years, I am asking you not to lower our previously contracted dental fees. I value my relationship that I have had with WDS over the years and I am grateful for this excellent insurance company. I can not bear to see them take this large step backwards which I feel is the beginning of a downward spiral. I look forward to improving our relationship in the future and to continue to grow with WDS. Most importantly, I want to continue to provide WDS patients with the best dental care that they deserve. Cutting the dentists contracted fees will reduce our practices to high volume, poor care dental clinics in our state which would lower our standards and quality. I am proud of the quality dentistry and the quality relationships that Washington dentists have with our patients because we can afford to give them the time and the best dental care that they rightly deserve. I don’t want to see the dental care in our state slump down to the lower levels we see in many other states in our country. Please have a higher vision for your company and do not think of cutting the providers who hold the future of WDS in their hands and in their hearts.

If WDS goes through with the fee restructuring that they intend, it will seriously hurt the hard working Washington State dentists more than you know. We are the ones who are taking the brunt of the economy trying to balance working more hours to make ends meet and still find time to manage a dental office. This move will also make it very clear that we are not allies with WDS, rather adversaries. Its putting negative energy into the pot that will not benefit anyone.


Dr. Robert L. Odegard DDS, MAGD

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