Trudeau promised seniors dental care, now he’s failing to deliver


So far, most dentists have refused to sign on to Trudeau's plan, saying it is too bureaucratic and not patient-centered.

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Imagine setting up a dental program to provide care for Canadian seniors, but without any dentists in the program, or at least not many dentists. That's what the Trudeau government's latest big promise to Canadians does: design a program that more than 1 million seniors have signed up for, but that dentists are avoiding like the plague.

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The government continues to promote the Canada Dental Care Plan (CDCP) to provide real care. Women, Gender Equality and Youth Minister Marci Ien sent out an email to her constituents telling them that starting this week, seniors aged 65-69 can sign up.

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“Access to oral health care should not be dependent on Canadians' ability to pay,” said the Toronto Center MP.

If she believed this, wouldn't she work with other cabinet and caucus colleagues to ensure a practical plan was in place?

Teresa Hains said: “I’m really excited about this plan: all seniors in my position are excited to get this great offer from the government.” toronto sun in an interview last week.

The 76-year-old retired Toronto teacher signed up for the program as soon as he became eligible and was shocked to find how few dentists were involved. Her own dentist has not participated in years, and calls to 10 other dental practices near her home revealed that none of them had signed up for the scheme.

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Eventually, Teresa found a dentist who contracted with her, but their office wasn't accepting new patients.

“It's kind of like riding a horse and shutting the barn door, you know,” Teresa said of the dentist's lack of involvement.

“This would be a very important step and someone should discover this.”

If the government had listened to its partners, they would have identified this problem. The Canadian Dental Association has long advocated extending coverage to vulnerable Canadians, but they have also been pointing out problems with the program's design to the government for months, to no avail.

The CDA recently surveyed 4,000 member dentists, and 61% said they would not participate in the current program.

“CDCP is inconsistent with other dental care programs. It's a complex government program. It involves a more complex authorization process that we think disrupts patient care,” CDA CEO Dr. Aaron Burry, a 37-year dentist, said two weeks ago explained to the House of Commons Finance Committee.

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Burry stressed that the CDA wanted the scheme to be successful, but called for changes if dentists planned to participate.

They want patients to be able to choose their own dentist, streamlined approval processes for needed care, and want dentists to be fully compensated for their services, something none of the current plans do. They are also concerned that many seniors believe they will receive completely free dental care, but that is not how the program is currently structured.

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Provincial governments across the country have existing private and public programs. They all actually work the same way: the patient goes to the dentist, the dentist provides the needed service, and the insurance plan (private or public) pays the dentist.

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Of course, the plan devised by the Trudeau government adds layers of bureaucracy and imposes unnecessary approvals on the services of Ottawa bureaucrats.

There are some simple solutions to fixing the program, but it requires hearing from experts in public dental programs — the dentists who provide the services and the provinces that run the existing programs. The Liberals seem unwilling to admit they may have made a mess of things, and so far are holding on.

The program should be up and running, but the Trudeau Liberals have shown once again that they are good at making announcements but unable to deliver — and seniors are the ones hurting.

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