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Reflections at the One-year Mark

By Jill Feilmeier on June 20, 2014 in Company News


The month of May marked my one-year anniversary as CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa, and without question, it has been a year of new opportunities, challenges and changes. As tends to happen with milestones, I've taken time to reflect on how our organization and I have changed during the past year.

One of the things I have come to realize is that Delta Dental is truly a different kind of insurance company. As a not-for-profit insurer, our mission is to improve the health and smiles of the people we serve. Before I arrived here, I didn’t realize that Delta Dental was not-for-profit and I didn’t know the good work our Foundation does for Iowans. It really is a fantastic organization and we will to do a better job letting Iowans know about the positive difference this makes in how we do business.

Some of you might know us more by our numbers than by our mission. We are Iowa's largest dental insurer, with more than 950,000 members. We serve more than 3,000 employer groups throughout the state; more than 90 percent of Iowa's dentists are in one of our networks; and individual policies are an increasing part of our growing portfolio. But for me, the best part isn’t in the numbers. It's in the pleasure I have had in being able to meet the many Iowans that we support with a quality dental benefit.

There's a lot of “new” in any job – new people, new processes, new customers. Not only have I been navigating a new environment, I’ve been learning a new industry: health care and health insurance. It's been a fun ride. The first part of my journey here brought many new acronyms – every industry seems to have them and we're no different. But this year also brought many changes to the health insurance industry and changes in the market. With the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the launch of the public health insurance exchanges, we made many changes to our existing products. And we keep on working to meet new regulatory requirements.

I didn’t quite realize the benefit I gained from my experience being neck-deep in the regulatory transformation of the financial services industry. However – with a little distance – I now see that experience as an opportunity that prepared me for the similar transformation taking place today within health insurance. Sure, it's bumpy and it can be uncomfortable, but I believe today's changes in health care insurance will ultimately lead to achieving true health care reform.

With so much change happening quickly, it would be tempting to wait and see how it all shakes out before taking action. However, I'm honored to lead an organization that is choosing to set its own course. Instead of fear causing inaction, we're leveraging current opportunities to shape the future of the company.

I’ve also learned that there is a solid link between oral health and overall health. Receiving dental care is one of the least expensive ways someone can impact their overall health. Even so, one of the things we’ve discovered is that having dental insurance coverage more than doubles the likelihood someone will visit the dentist.

For more than 40 years, the dental industry has been focusing on preventive care. This approach for improving oral health creates a path that all areas of health care can follow. It's exciting to realize we can be the example for the rest of the health care and health insurance industry. I'm proud to be a part of improving the health and smiles of the people we serve.

I’ve mentioned a number of things that have been new, but at least one thing has been comfortably familiar – I'm consistently amazed by the great people I’ve had the pleasure to work with during my career. When you make a change, you have a moment to reflect on the past and ponder the future. Both my former and current work families have experienced periods of transformational change. I’ve been humbled by the dedication and ingenuity I’ve seen them demonstrate as they’ve tackled these tough challenges. And as we move our business forward by enabling technology and continuing to engage with our members, I believe we can build the next era for Delta Dental of Iowa.

Whether it's financial services, health care or my observations of other industries, I’ve seen that success comes from collaboration, courage and conviction. After a year on the job, I'm proud to have joined Delta Dental of Iowa; proud of the employees I work alongside every day; proud of our network of dentists who provide quality care to our customers; and proud to be on the leading edge of improving the overall health of Iowans.