Question 2 Wins a Decisive, Landmark Victory for Better Dental Benefits
Massachusetts becomes first state in the nation to deliver consumer dental protections, more states poised to follow
November 8, 2022 – Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved ballot Question 2, delivering first-in-the-nation dental insurance reform that will assure patient dollars are spent on patient care, protect consumers from large increases in dental insurance premiums, and provide increased transparency of and accountability for dental insurer spending. Now, the better dental benefits and consumer protections afforded by Question 2 are poised to be replicated in states across the country.
For decades, the lack of adequate consumer protections for dental patients has allowed dental insurers to put their own profits and operations ahead of serving consumers and supporting the oral health of patients. That is why the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) and American Dental Association (ADA) endorsed a “yes” vote on Question 2 and led the campaign for its passage through the Massachusetts Dental Care Providers for Better Dental Benefits Committee. The Yes on 2 campaign worked tirelessly to secure support from dental teams and oral health care providers across the country as well as from Massachusetts dental providers, consumer advocates, and elected leaders here in the commonwealth.
“Together, we put patients first over profits. We thank the voters of Massachusetts and our over 5,000 member dentists of the MDS who worked hard to inform and engage their communities, as well as all of the individuals and organizations in the commonwealth and across the country who provided support to assist with this measure’s passage,” said Meredith Bailey, DMD, president of the Massachusetts Dental Society. “Dental patients deserve the same consumer protections as medical patients, and we are hopeful that the better dental benefits that the people of Massachusetts will soon experience will spread to patients across the country.”
“This is a landmark victory for Massachusetts dental patients, who will get more value from what they are already paying for dental care and be protected from large increases in premiums thanks to the passage of Question 2,” said Andrew Tonelli, DMD, committee spokesperson and Co-Chair of the MDS’ Government Affairs Committee. “It is also a milestone for dental insurance reform at the national level. By making dental insurers more transparent and accountable to the dental patients they serve, people will be better able to judge the value of insurance products relative to treatment provided and health outcomes they support.”
Question 2 will:
- Require that dental insurance companies spend at least 83 percent of premium dollars on patient dental care and quality improvements, instead of administrative expenses and overhead such as executive salaries;
- Require that dental insurance companies that do not meet the 83 percent requirement refund the difference to their covered individuals or groups;
- Require dental insurance plans be more transparent with patients by disclosing administrative costs and other financial information annually to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance in order to demonstrate how premium dollars are being spent, including how much is being spent on patient care;
- Allow the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to approve or disapprove of any proposed rates for dental insurance plans.
Massachusetts has already established consumer protections for medical insurance plans (also called medical loss ratios – or MLRs) but until today no such protections existed for dental patients. Once this issue was approved to go forward on the ballot, dental care providers across the country came together to support its passage by reaching out to voters across Massachusetts about this important issue. Now that Massachusetts voters have considered the facts and decisively approved Question 2, insurers will have to meet minimum consumer protection standards by dedicating a required percentage of patient premium dollars towards patient oral health services. Insurers that don’t meet the standard will have to issue premium refunds back to covered individuals and groups.
Only two other states have achieved transparency regulations requiring dental insurers to file annual financial reports to disclose what percentage of premium dollars are spent on patient care. The California Dental Association found that the state’s dental plans only dedicate an average of 76 percent of premiums toward care, significantly below medical plan requirements. Some individual insurance plans fall even shorter. This leaves dental patients picking up the tab to cover the higher out-of-pocket costs and non-covered dental care expenses while dental insurance providers pocket the remainder of patient premium dollars.
“With the overwhelming support of the voters, Massachusetts dentists, health professionals, and their patients have sent a powerful message across the country tonight. By working together and engaging with our patients and our communities, dentists can help achieve significant reforms in dental insurance so that our patients are protected and are assured greater value from their dental insurance plans,” said George Shepley, D.D.S., president of the American Dental Association. “The American Dental Association has been proud to partner with the Massachusetts Dental Society in advocating for the health of the public and in helping to achieve this precedent-setting victory for Massachusetts dental patients that could herald future changes for dental insurance reforms nationwide.”
About the Massachusetts Dental Society
The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) is a professional association representing 5,000-plus member dentists and a statewide constituent of the American Dental Association. It is dedicated to the professional development of its members through initiatives in education, advocacy, and the advancement of top-quality professional standards. The MDS is also a champion for oral health care across the commonwealth. For more information, visit www.massdental.org.
About the American Dental Association
The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 161,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), published monthly, is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit ADA.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care, and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website MouthHealthy.org.