Students ‘excited’ about dental plan

The new student dental plan appears off to a healthy start, with 715 students taking advantage of the plan since it became effective fall term.

“Students have been excited to have the dental plan,” said Sandy Franz, administrative director of the Student Health Service. The number of students using the plan fall term amounts to 5.7 percent of the almost 12,500 full-time students eligible for the service.

The plan is under contract with the Willamette Dental Group. In order to use the plan, students must visit a Willamette Dental office. The group maintains 10 offices in the Portland metro area, with other locations throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The most popular office with Portland State University students has been the nearby location in Goose Hollow, at 1933 S.W. Jefferson St., Franz said. Most of the student visits so far have been for a basic exam and teeth cleaning.

The dental plan was instituted after an intensive campaign by students. It was eventually added by raising the health service fee by $20 a term.

Franz said she has heard of three or four complaints about the plan.

“I heard about the same number of complaints as I did of compliments,” she said.

There has been no formal study of results, as yet.

“It’s such a new thing, we don’t have any way of equating it to anything,” she said.

Kristin Wallace, student body president, sees the plan as a personal success. She was a leader in the campaign to get the service approved before she became president of ASPSU. The campaign occupied much of her time last year.

“I was committed to see it through,” she said. “It was a really empowering thing – really a power victory for students. It showed that students really can make a difference.”

Willamette Dental has been giving evaluation sheets to about half the students who use the service.

Ron Pattee, the insurance agent of record for Portland State student health and dental insurance, said student reactions will be tabulated in a poll this month, with the results expected to be published about the end of February.

Pattee encouraged students to make their feelings about the new service known to student representatives. He is in the Student Health Service office every Monday and Tuesday from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Pattee said one provision is that every student who pays the $20 fee all three terms of the regular academic year will have the plan through the summer. If the student is on the plan less than all three terms, it can be available in the summer by paying a $20 fee.

Pattee pointed out that although the Goose Hollow office is the closest to campus and right on the MAX line, other Willamette Dental offices are also close to the MAX and readily accessible.

The health service, located in the basement of Neuberger Hall, has a brochure that explains the dental plan in detail. There is no annual maximum and no deductible. A copay of $10 a visit is assessed.

The brochure addresses some common questions students may ask. One of them is, “Why can’t I get my teeth cleaned on my first visit?” The answer is Willamette Dental feels it’s better to evaluate a patient’s general dental condition in one visit and schedule the cleaning at another time.

The initial visit includes a complete exam and x-rays, including an oral cancer screening, plus a discussion of the student’s treatment plan and a scheduling of the first teeth-cleaning appointment.

For students who already have a dental plan, the PSU plan will pay for parts of a claim that the student’s existing plan leaves unpaid, subject to the amount the PSU plan would have paid if it were the student’s only plan.

The plan brochure lists the charges for service beyond the copay. The common procedures range from $30 for cleaning and fillings, up to $150 for some root canals.

The brochure also lists exclusions from coverage. The plan will not cover sedation dentistry, bleaching of a tooth or cosmetic dentistry.

Willamette Dental maintains a 24-hour emergency service, reachable by phone. Most offices are open six days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.