Advantage Dental Forms Partnership with National Company

DentaQuest anticipates having a majority stake in the Oregon-based insurer.

DentaQuest has entered into a partnership agreement with Advantage Dental to acquire a majority stake in the company. The transaction now awaits approval by Oregon’s Insurance Commissioner.

“We’re not selling the company, and nothing will change in Oregon; we’ll simply have more resources,” Dr. Mike Shirtcliff, founder and President, told The Lund Report. Advantage Dental started in 1994; today it provides dental care to 330,000 Medicaid members in Oregon and 65,000 PacificSource members in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

DentaQuest, based in Boston, has 24 million members; the majority are Medicaid and the underserved population. The company is privately held and bears a strong resemblance to Centene Corporation, which recently purchased Agate Resources, the parent company of Trillium Community Health Plan. “We work on many of the same Medicaid programs,” said Steve Pollock, DentaQuest’s CEO.

The details of the partnership will be finalized over the coming months while the Oregon Insurance Division reviews the necessary regulatory filings.

Discussions about a potential partnership got underway after Shirtcliff shared the podium with Pollock at a national Medicaid dental conference two years ago. Both men quickly learned they had similar philosophies –to improve health outcomes and lower costs among the low-income population – people who had often gone without basic dental services and had frequently resorted to hospital emergency rooms for treatment of acute pain.

Coincidentally, Advantage was looking for additional capital for its 300 dental owners, many of whom were eager to retire and wanted to recoup their equity investments. “Until now, we’d never taken any money out of the company and had kept re-investing those dollars so we could continue growing,” Shirtcliff said.

Pollock was intrigued by the collaborative approach developed by Shirtcliff where dentists are not only the providers but the financial backers, the owners of the company. Now he’s hoping to replicate that model elsewhere in the country.

“I’m excited to learn more about the success of the Oregon program and look for ways to build upon that elsewhere in the country to improve oral healthcare,” he told The Lund Report. “Through this collaboration, our two organizations will learn from one another to build on best practices in the administration of dental benefits and the delivery of oral healthcare.”

Shirtcliff has a long history of integrating oral health into patient-centered models of care, and works alongside the state’s coordinated care organizations to implement this design.

“I’m really excited about this new relationship with DentaQuest,” he said. “There’s been a lot of curiosity across the country about how Advantage Dental is interfacing with the oral and physical health of our community. Its mission-driven approach to health improvement is aligned perfectly with our own commitment to improving oral health access, especially for the underserved.”

In Oregon, children with Medicaid coverage who had a dental visit in the past 12 months rose from 32 percent in 2005 to 45 percent in 2013, according to the American Dental Association. Diane can be reached at [email protected].

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