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Sheep's Clothing - Tim E. Wandell, DDS

I just now realized why WDS is called a “not-for-profit” — it’s a “not-for-profit-for dentists.” Finally, the shoe has dropped, and we should all realize that WDS is just another PPO driven insurance company whose customer is big business, Boeing and others. Its insured are an incidental nuisance, and dentists merely a necessary evil.

When the ballots came out for the vote regarding making the board “more independent,” did anyone have any doubts that the result would not be good for either dentists or their patients?

I suppose enough time has elapsed that few will remember the idealistic origins of WDS. It was a not-for-profit company started by dentists to provide dental insurance for workers purchased by their employers. Purchasers could buy different plans depending upon how much they wanted to spend. Even when the first PPO was started, it still was a case of spend more, get a better plan.

Along the way there have been a few bumps in the road. There was an underfunded Boeing plan, which almost caused WDS to go under. Back then its loyal member dentists bailed it out with a five percent withhold (well, I had to mention it) to the tune of $40-some million dollars. I’m still waiting for the payback they promised. In the 70s, the FTC told us we should not be owners of an insurance company because it would be “self-dealing,” so we divested. Oregon was told the same thing with ODS. Their response was, “so sue us!” That never happened, and they have always had a symbiotic relationship with ODA. ODS is run as an insurance company but it listens to member dentists concerns.

When I was President of WOHF, I said to then-WDS CEO, Jim Garrison, if WDS would give our foundation a million dollars, I would never mention the withhold again. He looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. Well, I’m mentioning it again. As for their foundation, most of its dollars go to great PR projects that might as well be in the advertising budget. They give money to the UWSoD (which it sorely needs), but I hope that in the future the administration will be more suspect of WDSF motives.

Of course, we would never boycott WDS. That would be wrong and provoke some anti-trust action. Individuals will have to decide whether or not they can practice ethically within the reduced fees paid by WDS. It is problematic that this may be exactly what WDS wants. Reduce the numbers of participating dentists and then concentrate on squeezing them down further.

Back to not-for-profits. Why is WDS a not-for-profit? Why do they have $140 million in surplus/unassigned funds? Does that organization exist to feed the beast of its own bureaucracy? Are its employees taking a 15 percent haircut like we are? Why not tell Boeing, we exist to broker delivery of dental care between your workers and our dentists. If you want cheap, go swim the Willamette.

I don’t know what I’ll do. As one friend told me, don’t worry, you’re old, you can retire soon anyway. High-end practices who have never belonged even to the Premier WDS plan can continue as they have, oblivious to this change. I worry that younger practitioners may have to cut corners, not just create efficiencies. I’m sure less offices will take DSHS patients because it is already subsidized 70 percent by those offices.

I would accept it if WDS said, we just can’t sell the Premier plan, but we’ll keep it around. Were that the case, and fewer companies kept it, then it is my choice to join the PPO or not. As it is, WDS is not our friend. Why do I think of “sheep’s clothing?”

-Tim E. Wandell, DDS
Hoquiam, WA


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