Dentists hesitant to sign up for federal dental plan; seniors advised to look at all options

Canada’s health minister met with dentists on Thursday to address concerns about the Canadian Dental Care Plan as the Alberta Dental Association questioned whether enough dentists will sign up to deliver care when the plan starts for seniors in May.Eligible seniors will be able to access oral health-care treatment through the  plan (CDCP) as early as May, with applications having been open since December for those 87 and above, and to additional age groups in the months since. As of this month, those 70 and older are eligible to apply, with those 65 to 69 able to sign up come May.

Dr. Jenny Doerksen, president of the Alberta Dental Association says Ottawa still has not provided enough details.

She met with the federal health minister on Thursday, along with representatives of dental associations from across the country.

“Why are you putting up barriers by introducing the concept of registration and contracts with unknown terms and conditions? We didn’t get a very clear answer to that,” Doerksen said.

Dentists are balking at the idea of signing contracts in order to join the program and are also concerned about imposing more paperwork on administrative staff.

Doerksen said Canada’s dentists support the idea of a national public dental care plan but calls this current plan flawed.

“The number one concern is that unlike other programs, this particular Canadian dental care plan is asking dentists to sign up to a contract without any terms and conditions,” Doerksen said.

“These are unnecessary and unknown to us and this really interferes with the patients’ autonomy to to choose their own dentist,” she said.A spokesperson for Health Minister Mark Holland says he had a “productive” meeting with dentists on Thursday.

“Oral health providers are essential to the success of the CDCP. That’s why our government is committed to working with them to explore ways to reduce barriers so that all oral health professionals can provide services to patients under the CDCP.”

The spokesperson said in a statement: “the ‘contract’ that is being referred to by Dr. Doerksen is a claims and payment processing agreement, which is an industry standard when direct billing.”

“Unfortunately, I can’t say there was any additional information so I’m still in the same boat as I was a few months ago. It’s very unclear to me how the Canadian dental plan is going to roll out.  I’m not sure how this is going to affect our patients, our practice and our staff,” Doerksen said.

Laura Woods is an independent dental hygienist who works at long term care centers in Calgary.

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