Dentist Opt-In Low for New Federal Dental Care Plan

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In December 2023, the federal government began rolling out a new publicly funded dental care program designed to make oral care more accessible to low-income people across the country.

To date, however, support for dentists in Manitoba has been low, making accessibility to qualified individuals still an issue.

The program, known as the Canada Dental Care Plan (CDCP), is being implemented in phases, starting with seniors. By 2025, all Canadian residents with an annual household income of less than $90,000 will be eligible to apply.

CDCP will cost taxpayers $13 billion over the next five years and $4.4 billion for ongoing implementation.

Frustrated by lack of dental support

The daughter of a Niverville resident said she was happy to learn about the CDCP being launched for seniors. Her 91-year-old mother lives on a fixed income. In today's era of inflation, even the most basic dental treatment is a luxury that is nearly unaffordable for this aging senior citizen.

The daughter requested anonymity to protect her mother. Let's call her Linda.

After receiving her mother's CDCP registration card, Linda contacted the local dental clinic where her mother and other family members had been seen for years. However, before her appointment, she was told that the oral health care provider who worked there was not enrolled in the federal program.

Linda said the reason was poor communication between the government and the dental industry before the scheme was implemented. Additionally, CDCP provides coverage that is lower than the regular dental fees charged by the clinic.

When asked if her mother could apply for CDCP benefits and pay the difference, the answer was no. Receptionists are not shy about admitting that they get a lot of calls from patients, but they all get the same answer.

“Honestly, I feel [toward this] It's anger,” Linda said. “We have been waiting almost a year to take my mom to the dentist for this plan. She has a problem that has been causing her pain [and] We have been waiting until we received this amazing CDCP card. Turns out, it's not so magical after all.

For Linda, it was unclear how to find a dentist enrolled in the program. As she did so, she wondered what the transportation logistics would be for her mom if the dental office wasn't nearby.

“Many seniors are on fixed incomes,” Linda said. “I guess that's why the government made them eligible for this coverage in the first place. Like everyone, seniors deserve proper dental care. Healthcare is a basic human right. That's why we have single-payer healthcare in Canada Health care. Why should dental care be different?

Response from the Manitoba Dental Association

that citizen We contacted a local dental clinic, which referred the investigation to the Manitoba Dental Association (MDA).

MDA President Dr. Daron Baxter responded quickly on behalf of all oral health care providers across the province.

“Right now, dental enrollment in Manitoba is low, but that's not due to a lack of support for the program,” said Baxter. “The Manitoba Dental Association, along with dentists in Manitoba and across the country, believes that This is a historic opportunity to improve access to care for financially disadvantaged patients.”

Ultimately, she said, the lack of support comes down to two main issues.

First, the details about what to expect from a dental practice remain fairly vague. Baxter said if dentists are going to register with the government as CDCP providers, they want to be clear on the full terms of the contractual agreement.

“The government has put a lot of work into preparing patients for CDCP,” Baxter said. “Work to prepare providers is in the advanced stages. We are not ready to run the program yet.

Baxter added that dental associations across the country began consulting with the federal government long before CDCP was implemented. She said there is a lot of valuable expertise available out there that can help create a program that benefits everyone.

Unfortunately, she said, the association did not meet with federal Health Minister Mark Holland until the plan was designed. Since then, attempts at negotiations have been slow.

However, Baxter said that while expectations are unclear, oral health professionals are more concerned that provider registration is necessary. Ultimately, all this does is limit patient access rather than improve it.

Baxter wasn't sure why the government took this approach. No other dental scheme, private or public, currently requires dentists to be registered in order to treat patients.

This includes the Canada Dental Benefit Program, another federally funded program that provides subsidies for children under 12 from low-income families.

Baxter said the program's benefits are paid directly to parents, allowing them to choose their own dentist for treatment.

“It works more like a health spending account [for parents] And the administrative burden is light on both patients and dentists. “This is a great way to get subsidies [directly] Put it in the hands of patients.

However, the way the CDCP operates seems to be to completely exclude patients from the entire process. This leaves the additional administrative work of administering the program to the dental offices.

She said it was not entirely unusual as they already do extra work for many private insurance providers, but it was a factor to consider when looking at the wider population, particularly when the government was It's vague about what that administrative job will involve.

“We strongly advocate that oral health provider registration should not be part of the CDCP,” Baxter said. “It limits patient access to care because patients are no longer free to see any licensed provider of their choice. This plan should provide the same freedom of choice that all Canadians currently enjoy.

This is what dental associations have been trying to convey for months, citing the example of the National Dental Scheme adopted by the UK government a few years ago.

“We have informed the federal government of some of the challenges in their plans because we want to learn from their challenges and not repeat the same mistakes,” Baxter said.

She added that the challenges largely revolve around the need for provider registration, which has led to a significant drop in enrollees since the program began.

Another big concern shared by oral health professionals is that there seems to be a common misconception that CDCP is a way for low-income people to receive free dental care.

That's not the case, Baxter said. This scheme is designed as a subsidy for dental treatment.

“For cleaning work, [the coverage] The closest,” she said. “The cleaning itself has close to 100% coverage, but that doesn't include exams or [x-ray] The cost, and that's certainly different for restorative or other treatments.

Thankfully, dental associations and federal health authorities have made some progress in recent weeks. If all goes well, patients will see more oral health care providers accepting CDCP cards in the near future.

“Through our advocacy, we've had some success,” Baxter said. “A few weeks ago, Mr Holland announced a registration-free route, but according to the federal government, it will not be available until July 8.”

She added that if the federal government follows through, it could potentially operate like a private insurance plan, giving patients more autonomy and better access to more dentists.

In the meantime, she advises patients to contact their preferred oral health provider after that date.

“We just want to see CDCP-eligible patients have the same health autonomy as existing private and public plan patients, and we think not enrolling is an easy way to solve that problem.”

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