60 Percent of Dentists Won’t Take Part in ‘Complex’ $13B Federal Care Plan, Association Says

by EditorK

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 25, 2023. (screen shot)

By Chris Tomlinson 

Over 60 percent of dentists would not participate in the federal government’s $13 billion Canada Dental Care Plan, the head of the Canadian Dental Association told MPs, saying many dentists surveyed thought the plan was overly complex.

Aaron Burry, CEO of the Dental Association, testified before the House Finance Committee on April 18, telling the committee a recent survey of 4,000 dentists found “61 percent of dentists said [they] will not participate in the program.”

“Without the support of oral health providers this program will not succeed and the millions of patients signing up for the program will not be able to find a dentist,” he said, as first covered by Blacklock’s Reporter.

He said that the dental association was not negotiating with the federal government regarding the plan but was testifying in order to provide advice about what the structure of the plan should be.

He said dentists were concerned about the program’s extensive terms and conditions, fee schedules not being aligned with provincial rates, and overall bureaucratic demands.

“It is a complex government program. It involves more complex authorization processes we believe will disrupt patient care,” he said.

Mr. Burry noted that the plan “does not provide free dental care,” and only covers a portion of the usual fees, creating confusion among dentists on the boundaries of coverage.

“An example, dentists don’t know how coordination of benefits with provincial programs is going to work. We also don’t know exactly what level of services will be preauthorized to meet patient needs. We just don’t know,” he said.

Private insurance company Sunlife is the administrator of the program, which is currently only available to seniors. Children under 18 will become eligible to apply in June, while those aged 18 to 64 will need to wait until 2025 to apply for the program.

To be eligible for the program, a household must earn less than $90,000 a year, not have access to dental insurance, be a Canadian resident for tax purposes, and have filed a tax return for the previous year.

The program will cover a range of dental care services, including dentures, extractions, x-rays, cleanings, root canals and other procedures.

When it was initially proposed, the Dental Care Plan was expected to cost around $6 billion over five years but the costs were later adjusted to $13 billion, more than double the initial estimate.

While around nine million Canadians could qualify for the program, if dentists are unwilling to sign on, they may find it difficult to find a dentist.

Health Minister Mark Holland announced this week that the government would be looking into tweaking the plan to make it more attractive to dentists and get more of them to sign up but noted at least 5,000 dentists have signed on so far.

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association has also voiced criticism of the plan, particularly the reimbursement guide which would pay significantly less to a private hygiene clinic as opposed to a dentist’s office.

According to the association, that would mean that some provinces would see as much as a 20 percent difference in reimbursement rates.

Chris Tomlinson is a reporter with the Canadian edition of The Epoch Times. 

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