The plan costs $254 a year, plus $154 for each additional family member or domestic partner, and provides the 20 percent break on dental services without a cap.

An Ashland dentist has created an annual membership dental plan that bundles and discounts services, attempting to skirt the exclusions, deductibles, denials and long waits of conventional insurance companies — and to make dental care more accessible to the uninsured.

Called the Quality Dental Plan, it's the creation of Dr. Daniel Marut, who, with partner Dr. Edward Warr at Today's Dentistry in Ashland, offers the plan that comes with two cleanings, an annual exam, all X-rays, tooth whitening and 20 percent off on fillings, caps, bridgework, implants, orthodontics and other work.

"We're gearing this to the uninsured, the underserved market that's about half of the population," says Marut. "We designed it so that, if you have it, you don't need insurance. The cost of insurance would exceed the cost of this plan."

The plan costs $254 a year, plus $154 for each additional family member or domestic partner, and provides the 20 percent break on dental services without a cap, he notes, while most insurance plans cap at about $1,500 a year. The bundled services, costing $254, would run $754 separately, he says, adding that his fee schedule for dental work is about average for the area.

Marut markets the plan nationwide and has sold it to 22 practices so far, none in the Rogue Valley, he says.

"Dentists are very conservative in their approach, when trying something new," Marut says.

"But without a doubt, absolutely, they like it. It's a win-win for everyone."

A big part of the "win" for Marut is sidestepping the morass of the insurance claims process — both for his office and clients, who often have to file and re-file on claims rejections and wait a year or two for authorization on a procedure.

"I can't tell you the amount time and staff paperwork we've spent on insurance," Marut says. "It seems like it's all about money. The longer they wait to pay you, the more money they make. They can deny you for anything they see fit and that sets up another 30-day waiting period."

In contrast, he notes, his plan starts immediately, has no waiting periods, no paperwork and imposes no restrictions around health or preexisting conditions.

The plan, Marut notes, is available to employers and groups, including retirees, part-time workers and employees' uninsured dependents. Seven local employers have bought it for their staffs, so far.

"There are no hassles, no waiting periods, no exclusions, no pre-authorization, no waiting to see if a procedure is covered," he says. "You get rid of the third party and keep the relationship between the dentist and patient. The way it should be."

One client, Krista Johnson of Ashland, says the plan, which covers her, her husband and two children, is "great, you really save money."

"It's so much for the first person and you get the exam, cleaning and films — right there it (regular fees and insurance) cost more than that," she says. "The fillings and other work are 20 percent off if you pay at the time you get it. And my health insurance doesn't cover dental — most don't."

Today's Dentistry is located at 1530 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. The phone number is 541-482-7771 and the office's Web site is www.lasertoothdr.com.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.