dental contracts
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, that three companies have been selected to manage the administration of dental benefits for SoonerCare, the state's Medicaid program. (

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced this morning that three companies have been selected to receive managed care dental contracts for Oklahoma’s Medicaid oral health plans.

The companies are:

In the announcement, the OHCA said these companies, also known as dental benefit plans, will assign SoonerCare members to “dental homes” in order to increase preventative care and reduce the use of emergency services for dental issues. SoonerCare is the name for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.

“Through the DBPs, we will be able to concentrate more on preventive care for  the  younger SoonerCare  population,” OHCA dental director Dr. Karen Luce said in the press release. “Currently, the  SoonerCare population under age 21 [is not regularly] utilizing the preventive care benefit. They tend to not be treated until there’s pain and  need severe work. DBPs will incentivize  members  to  have  consistent appointments  and have their teeth cleaned every six months. This change will prevent a good deal of restorative care and improve overall oral health.”

OHCA senior media relations professional Katelynn Burns said the agency’s most recent data about SoonerCare dental benefit usage show that, for Fiscal Year 2018, about 49 percent of children ages 3 to 20 had at least one preventive visit. About 16 percent of 1 and 2 year olds had a preventive visit.

The initial contracts, which start in June, will last for a year with an option to renew for five years at the discretion of the OHCA.

Details on the companies

Dentaquest is a Massachusetts-based company that provides direct dental care through oral health centers in six states and focuses on what it calls “preventistry” — “a future that prioritizes preventive care, focuses on value over volume and uses technology to increase access and transform health care systems.”

An audit conducted by the Texas Office of the Inspector General last year found that Dentaquest, which has had a contact with Texas since 2012, charged approximately $1.5 million in “unsupported, overstated or unallowable expenses” in 2017. The audit also found that “DentaQuest did not routinely review, monitor and remove unnecessary accounts that have access to Texas HHS agency sensitive or confidential information.”

Liberty Dental Plan of Oklahoma, Inc., is associated with the national Liberty Dental Plan company, which provides services in approximately a dozen states. Liberty has been “actively administering dental benefits in the Sooner State since 2018,” according to its website, and currently provides dental for the HMO CommunityCare.

MCNA, which stands for Managed Care of North America, has its headquarters in Florida and provides dental services in eight states.

An audit completed in 2019 by the Texas Office of the Inspector General of MCNA’s services in Texas found the company had charged $777,660 in “unallowable, unsupported, or overstated consulting and non-executive bonus expenses” in 2017.

In a response to the audit, MCNA said, “Considering the scale of MCNA’s contract with HHSC to administer dental benefits for approximately 1.5 million children enrolled in the Medicaid and CHIP programs, we believe that our strong financial controls and adherence to HHSC’s Cost Principles are evident in the result of this audit.”

In February 2020, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined MCNA’s board of directors as vice chairman and chief strategy officer.

Moving forward under controversy and a lawsuit

The dental contracts are part of the continued roll-out of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s controversial plan to bring in private companies to manage the state’s Medicaid programs.

On Jan. 29, the governor announced that four companies had received contracts to manage medical care.

The move toward privatized managed care has been met with resistance from many corners, including among several lawmakers in Stitt’s own party, which has caused some dissension among Capitol Republicans.

Last week, a group of medical organizations in the state — including the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Dental Association, Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists and the Oklahoma chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics — filed a lawsuit with the Oklahoma Supreme Court requesting an injunction to stop privatization from moving forward until after the Legislature has weighed in on the matter.

(Update: This article was updated to include SoonerCare dental benefit usage statistics at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 18.)

Andrea DenHoed is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and was formerly the web copy chief at The New Yorker magazine. She became NonDoc's managing editor in March 2020 and transitioned to a part-time role as features editor at the end of 2022. She departed NonDoc in 2023 to pursue an educational opportunity.