Netherlands must sell oral health providers in dental care plan before coverage begins

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

Published on Monday, March 25, 2024 5:32 pmEDT

Last updated Monday, March 25, 2024 5:33 pmEDT

Health Minister Mark Holland is on tour to convince Canadian dentists and hygienists about the new federal dental care plan as concerns grow about what the government plans to pay providers for their services.

The government began enrolling seniors in the dental coverage plan late last year as part of a new program to provide dental benefits directly to people who are currently uninsured.

The first people enrolled in the program are expected to be able to begin cleaning and treating their teeth in May, but only if they have access to an oral health provider who has signed up to provide the care.

Dentist and hygienist associations support the program but oppose fee guides the federal government released last month, which pay less than recommended by provincial and territorial guidelines.

There are approximately 16,000 dental offices in Canada, according to the Canadian Dental Association. The program also requires offices of independent oral surgeons, denturists and hygienists to register.

“We need them to be involved for this to be successful,” Holland said in an interview Friday.

Holland was in Richmond Hill, Ontario. meet with several providers as the first stop on a Canada-wide tour aimed at attracting dentists and other care providers.

He said negotiation over rates is ongoing.

“I’m committed to working very closely with them and explaining to them that this is iterative and it’s not going to be perfect from the beginning,” Holland said.

The program is the result of the political pact the Liberals signed with the NDP two years ago and will eventually be available to any uninsured person with an annual household income of less than $90,000 a year.

The government is slowly rolling out eligibility, starting with seniors, before moving to children under 18 and people receiving the disability tax credit.

So far, 1.5 million seniors have signed up for the program, but Holland says the government hasn’t set a target for how many dentists, hygienists and other oral health providers are needed to actually provide the care.

“Even if all providers signed up, there are still people who are too far from a dentist to be able to receive care,” Holland said, speaking specifically of people who live in remote rural communities.

“So not everyone will get coverage right away from the beginning.”

Dentist and hygienist associations expressed concern about the burden on patients if the government does not reimburse providers for the true cost of providing the service.

“Canadians will not have 100 per cent coverage for their treatments and, in many cases, will be required to pay out of pocket for a portion of their treatment,” said Heather Carr, president of the Canadian Dental Association, in a released statement. on the association’s website.

Many other dentists could opt out entirely, leading to fewer providers and fewer options for patients, he said.

Holland defended the proposed rebates under the program as a balance between what is fair to providers and what is fair to taxpayers.

Most of the services listed are within 90 per cent of the suggested provincial fee guides, which are prepared by professional provider associations each year, Holland said.

There are some services that the federal government only plans to pay at 70 to 80 percent of the suggested rates, but he said they are not the most essential services.

“They’re sort of in the nice-to-do category, not the essential medicine category,” Holland said.

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