I recently received an invitation addressed to UA graduate students to join a dental plan. I did join, but found the plan unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. I’d like to tell other UA graduate students why, so that they can make a wiser decision than I did.
I want to emphasize that I don’t think that the company has done anything illegal. However, I do feel that the material was sent inviting me to join makes the real costs of dental care under the plan difficult to understand.
The cover letter accompanying the brochure promises “For one low yearly membership fee, you will receive a routine dental cleaning, full mouth x-ray and oral examination all for no charge!” The yearly fee is $59. So it sounds like for $59 you get a free checkup. However, in the fine print is the following:
1) There is a $10 payment per office visit. This is listed in the brochure under the heading “Preventive Services,” though it is not a “preventive service.” Why should I look for the possibility of a per-visit office fee under the heading “Preventive Services?” When I called the dentist’s office to make an appointment, the receptionist didn’t hesitate to call this fee a “copayment,” though the company says nothing in any of the literature about a copayment.
2) The dentist’s office I called also told me that it would require two visits, at $10 a visit, to receive the “free” cleaning, x-ray and examination. Since both my wife and I will go, that brings up to $40 to qualify for all the “free” services.
3) When I called the company to complain and demand my money back, I was told that the $59 I’d paid was not refundable. From the brochure: “Membership fee fully earned upon processing of enrollment form.” I pointed out that this language does not communicate to a layman the simple message, “no refunds,” but got nowhere.
4) Also from the small print in the brochure: “First cleaning may not be offered as your free yearly routine cleaning.” This means that after paying the $59 fee, some users (depending on their dentist’s policy) may be required to pay for a cleaning before receiving a “free” cleaning.
So the cover letter emphasizes the idea that the services are “free,” with no mention of the real costs involved in receiving these services. I hope that my explanation helps other graduate students thinking of enrolling in such a plan understand how much the “free” services will cost.
Clyde A. Moneyhun
Graduate Student in the Department of English
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