New "passport'' dental program lets enrollees travel freely between HMO and fee-for-service plan

July 10, 2003
Delta Dental stresses flexibility with new group dental program

Employers and employees in California who want more flexible dental benefits now have a new option, thanks to a program from the state's largest dental plan that lets enrollees choose monthly between higher benefits versus a wider choice of dentists.

"Passport," the newest program offered by Delta Dental Plan of California, allows enrollees to switch monthly between a fee-for-service program with a wide selection of dentists, and a dental HMO program with lower out-of-pocket costs. The dental HMO program is administered by Delta's Southern California affiliate, PMI Dental Health Plan.

Typically, a "dual choice" dental program allows enrollees to switch programs just once a year during a company's open enrollment period. By contrast, Passport gives enrollees this opportunity each month.

"Passport puts employees in the driver's seat so they can match their dental care needs with the program that best accommodates them," said Lynette Crosby, Delta's director of Product Marketing & Development. "Employers get to provide this flexibility without any extra administrative work, and at no additional cost."

Here's how it works: Employers choose one of Delta's fee-for-service programs -- DeltaPremier, a traditional managed fee-for-service program that includes nearly 19,000 of the state's dentists within its network, or DeltaPreferred Option, a dental PPO that provides cost savings and other advantages when patients visit one of the more than 10,000 network dentists in California. Enrollees then have the option to sign up with the selected fee-for-service plan or with DeltaCare, a dental HMO program that, while drawing on a smaller dentist network, still offers one of the largest HMO dentist panels in the state with some 2,500 general dentists.

Of the three programs, the dental HMO program offers the highest benefit level and, unlike the fee-for-service programs, has no annual maximums or deductibles on general services.

Employees may switch, as often as monthly, between the fee-for-service plan and the dental HMO. Enrollees who sign up with the dental HMO select a general dentist to provide all their dental care, but they may easily change dentists or switch into the fee-for-service program, which does not require them to sign up with a network dentist. Conversely, an enrollee may move from the fee-for-service program to the DeltaCare dental HMO program simply by making a phone call.