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War of Words Not Over in Delta Dental vs. Johnston Mayor

Mayor Joseph Polisena recently said the town saved more than $130,000 by changing dental providers — but Delta Dental claimed that the town could have saved more by staying.

War of Words Not Over in Delta Dental vs. Johnston Mayor


Mayor Joseph Polisena recently announced that the plan to change dental insurance providers for town employees — which originated in July, 2010 — has saved more than $130,000 since the switch went into effect.

But Delta Dental, the previous provider, replied that the town could have saved more by remaining with that company instead of moving to Blue Cross.

According to data released by the mayor, Johnston decreased its payments for dental insurance by about $12,000 for fiscal 2011 and about $121,000 so far in fiscal 2012. The coverage change affected about 914 current and retired municipal employees, police officers, and firefighters, Polisena noted.

During an Apr. 30 press conference at , Polisena said he especially wanted to point out the savings in light of Delta's public campaign against him in 2010, which included a statement by CEO Joseph Nagle accusing Polisena of "a litany of statements that are undeniably false," according to the .

The Insider also reported in July, 2010, that Joseph Rodio, a lawyer hired by the town to handle the dispute, told the town council that Delta couldn't produce a contract with the town when it was requested.

At the time, the newspaper reported, Rodio produced a memo released by Delta that promised a "media blitz" against Polisena.

"I took great umbrage to the fact that Delta Dental tried to make it political — they wrote letters to the public during election time, and they wrote letters to the members [of the unions], and the members didn't really respond, nor did the public, obviously, because I got reelected," Polisena explained. "I just think that it was very low for Delta Dental to get down in the mud like my political opponent did."

[IAFF Local 1950, the Johnston firefighters' union, supported former Fire Chief Victor Cipriano in the 2010 Democratic primary against Polisena.]

"We saved 19 percent — so I guess the case in point is, that as Delta Dental tried to discredit this administration and myself [for] making a business decision, I think it backfired in their face and we were right with our figures," Polisena said.

"They said it was going to cost us more money, they said it was a mistake, that I was putting the burden on the taxpayers — I don't make the decision unless I have all the facts," the mayor added. "For Delta Dental to come out as they did, so viciously and vindictively and attack me personally — they were trying to play politics. They should stick to taking care of peoples' teeth instead of playing politics."

In an email message sent today, Delta Dental Director of Corporate Communications Mary Sommer responded by saying the company could have saved the town even more.

"As a result of our superior contractual discounts with dentists, we believe it is irrefutable that Delta Dental would have saved the Town of Johnston more money than its current carrier," Sommer wrote. "Our contractual savings are worth an additional eight percent over the savings that Mayor Polisena quoted."

Sommer also noted the estimated $200,000 early termination fee that Delta is currently pursuing in court.

"We remain confident that we will prevail in our lawsuit, and demonstrate that it was a bad decision to switch from Delta Dental," Sommer wrote. "We are so confident, in fact, that two years ago, we offered to pay for an independent actuary to conduct an unbiased analysis of the Town of Johnston’s claim experience and savings. That offer still stands.”

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