Earlier this year, when the federal government announced plans to create a national dental program, Dr. Lisa Bentley, a dentist for more than three decades and president of the Ontario Dental Association (ODA), was thrilled that the gap in access to care is closed. .
But now, even after meeting with Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, the ODA still does not know when coverage will begin or what care will be included, according to a statement released by the association on Thursday.
“It’s quite alarming,” Dr. Bentley told Global News. “We don’t know what the schedule will look like, so we don’t know what procedures will even be covered.”
Liberals plan temporary fix for dental plan, sources say
In Canada, although 70% of patients have access to dental care, 30% do not, according to Dr. Bentley.
Apart from surgical-dental services, dental care is not covered by the Canada Health Act, according to a report by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
This means that a large majority of services are privately funded — including private insurers and Canadian households.
In late July, to explore the role private companies could play in administering the program, the Liberals issued a formal request for information (RFI) to members of the insurance industry.
With a “gap” in access, “patients are ending up in hospital emergency rooms with dental pain and infections and that is unacceptable in this country,” Dr Bentley said.
And now, with news of the Canada Dental Plan, some patients are postponing a visit to the dentist in the hope that it will be free in the future, according to Dr Bentley.
“Sometimes they put off a simple treatment like a small filling, which in two years could be a much bigger problem. It could potentially cause a bigger problem with access to care,” she said.
“What we would really like to see put in place is that the 30% who do not have access to care are the priority and that we do not see people giving up their dental benefits and delaying treatment, thinking that dentistry is going to be free. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”
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In Ontario, dentists get suggested treatment prices from the ODA, according to Smile House, a dental practice in Brampton.
For patients new to the practice, a full exam can cost between $79 and $157. A teeth cleaning would cost around $120 to $236.
Across the country, other associations such as the Alberta Dental Association (ADA) are also confused about what is happening with the plan.
“We don’t know how it will be administered, what services will be covered, or how it will work with existing Alberta government dental programs,” the ADA says on its website, advising patients to continue with regular dental checkups. rather than waiting for the program to take effect.
The British Columbia Dental Association (BCDA) has also written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Duclos asking for additional information regarding the program, Cary Chan, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs, told Global News.
The association also provided “several key recommendations to make Canada’s dental plan fair and sustainable for everyone involved,” Chan said.
“Like the ODA, we are waiting for further details to be released on the plan and how it will be rolled out in the provinces,” he added.
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Nationally, similar sentiments were also expressed by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA).
“It will be critical that the federal government work closely with all relevant partners to implement any new dental care proposals,” CDA President Dr. Lynn Tomkins said in a press release. published in June.
“CDA looks forward to collaborating over the coming months to develop an approach that will help reduce gaps in access to dental care for our underserved populations, while minimizing disruption for the majority of Canadians who already have coverage. dental”,
The Liberal government has set aside $5.3 billion over five years to fully implement the dental program.
To prevent the minority government from collapsing by 2025, they are currently working to provide dental coverage to low- and middle-income children by the end of this year as part of their trust and agreement. supply with the New Democrats.
If the deadline is not met, the NDP has pledged to withdraw from the agreement.
While details continue to be scarce, four sources familiar with the government’s plan but not authorized to speak publicly previously told The Canadian Press that this temporary solution would be to donate money directly to eligible families while a more permanent and expanded program arrives. to bear fruit.
Liberals plan temporary fix for dental plan, sources say
In July, Duclos said he was confident the federal government would be able to get the proposed program in place by the end of the year.
Earlier this month, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also said he was confident the dental program would be in place before the end of the year as promised.
But while the government is working to deliver on its commitment, even Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has admitted that it’s difficult to deliver new services to Canadians.
“As we have seen, for example, when rolling out child care arrangements across the country, delivering new services to Canadians is complicated,” she told a conference. release in Toronto on August 9.
“I think Canadians understand that.
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Plans are also in place to extend coverage to Canadians under 18, seniors and people with disabilities in 2023.
Then, by the end of the Supply and Trust Agreement in 2025, the program should be fully implemented for people in the eligible family income bracket.
This means that Canadians whose annual household income exceeds $90,000 will not have access to it.
Despite the more than $5 billion set aside by the government, a Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the plan will cost almost double that, or $9 billion.
The ODA does not know if the Liberals will keep their word on dental coverage for Canada’s youngest, as they have not received any information from the government, according to Dr Bentley.
“We want to make sure that taxpayers’ money is used wisely. We really want to make sure everyone in Ontario and across the country has access to timely dental care,” she said, noting that the association would like to work with the government to help properly develop the plan for Canadians.
“We have the knowledge and the history. We represent over 10,000 dentists,” she said. “We really want to be at the table.”
— with files from The Canadian Press
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