With over 600,000 members and 20 years of profitability, the insurance company Delta Dental of Rhode Island has been wildly successful. The company is nearly eight times the size of its next largest competitor and insures employees in 38 of the 39 municipalities in the state.
A “victim of its own success,” Delta Dental launched a number of spinoffs to continue to find growth opportunities, including Altus Ventures. It’s a boutique venture capital firm that would identify attractive investments the company could fund and provide expertise to.
But with their startups hats on, Altus Ventures ended up internally brainstorming its own transformative disruption in the dental benefits industry.
Late last year, the company launched Chewsi, an app that connects users with a network of dentists that are willing to provide significant savings to patients for dental services not covered by dental insurance. The app is available in Rhode Island and most of Massachusetts as well.
“Chewsi can be used by people who typically do not have dental insurance, such as part-timers and retirees,” Joe Nagle, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Rhode Island, told Rhode Island Inno. “But it also can be used by people with dental insurance for services not covered by their dental plan. In effect, it wraps around and complements their insurance coverage.”
According to Nagle, roughly 20 percent of dental claims submitted for insurance claims were not covered by their employers’ plans. This could be because the employer’s plan did not cover procedures such as teeth whitening, mouth guards, implants or adult orthodontia.
Or, it could be that the patient had already exceeded their maximum coverage limitation for the year. In these cases, the patient can use Chewsi to get savings that they could not procure on their own, which, in Nagle’s opinion, makes the target market for Chewsi almost limitless.
Nagle said dentists like Chewsi because it brings them more patients and more services, provides competitive reimbursement, eliminates hassles with insurance companies over what is covered or not covered and payment can be processed through the app while the patient is in the office.
Currently, the app has signed up 1,600 dental locations, while thousands of people have downloaded the app. Additionally, AAA Northeast has partnered with Chewsi to promote the app to its 8 million members in the region.
A number of the area’s largest employers are also introducing Chewsi to their employees as well.
“They are particularly appreciative that Chewsi allows them to offer a benefit to part-timers who in most cases are not benefit-eligible,” said Nagle. “And the employer doesn’t have any ongoing administrative responsibilities such as submitting enrollment files to an insurer or administering employee payroll deductions.”
Nagle said he expects to roll out the app in Connecticut and parts of New York by the end of the year.