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Despite dentists' frustrations, Holland maintains there are 'negotiations'

Photo: Justin Tang The Canadian Press Minister Mark Holland assures that the government is working to address the concerns of dentists.

Stephanie Taylor – The Canadian Press and Michel Saba – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

April 11, 2024

  • Canada

Dentists cannot participate in a national dental plan unless they know exactly how it will work, Heather Carr, president of the Canadian Dental Association, said Wednesday.

The federal health minister compared their fears to those raised by the launch of national health insurance in the 1960s.

Ms. Carr, whose organization represents provincial and territorial dental associations, said the federal program needs to be done right before registered seniors can start using it next month.

“We need to know what we are signing up for and what we can do for patients to care for them,” she said. I think we need to get it right from the start. »

The program, a key commitment of the Liberals' political pact with the New Democratic Party (NDP), is expected to provide dental coverage to uninsured families with household incomes below $90,000.< /p>

Enrollment has been rolled out in stages and eligible individuals ages 65 and older are expected to begin receiving coverage.

Liberals face criticism over the program, which is expected to cost $13 billion over five years, in part because of slow adoption by oral health care providers.

Health Minister Mark Holland insisted on Wednesday that the government was working to address dentists' concerns by making it easier to participate without having to formally register, and expects to “massive participation”.

“We make it very easy for them to participate and we have ongoing conversations and obviously there are negotiations,” he told reporters on Parliament Hill, adding that “thousands” of dentists have already signed up.

He compared this period of negotiation to the growing difficulties associated with establishing a national health insurance system several decades ago.

“It's reminiscent of some of the early struggles to ensure that everyone had medical care,” Holland said. If you remember, back in the 1960s, doctors had a lot of questions, concerns, and fears about expanding this coverage. And so, every time you expand the coverage and create something new, there will be challenges. »

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  • Minister Holland is “insulting,” say Quebec dentists
  • Dental plan under negotiation, says Minister Holland

Lack of information, say dentists

Many dentists feel they don't have enough information at this stage to register, said Carr, a practicing dentist for 36 years.

The fact that they have to register first is something that oral health care providers are not used to, she added, because dentists are used to treating directly with patients.

If a dentist wants to wait for more information before signing up, they could lose patients, Ms. Carr noted.

“Your current patient may no longer be able to see you because there is no provision,” she noted, calling the overall design of the program “much more complicated than it needs to be.”

Groups representing dentists and hygienists have expressed concerns about Ottawa's salary structure, saying the proposed fees are lower than those currently charged to patients.

Dental associations have warned that some of their members are reluctant to participate in the program, citing billing issues.

And in the meantime, patients are being told that the dental program is completely free, Carr responded, although there may be “out-of-pocket costs” in some cases.< /p>

“But we can’t be clear about that,” she added.

Mark Holland called the proposed fees “fair,” but Dr. Carl Tremblay, president of the Association of Dental Surgeons of Quebec, sees things differently.

The minister is essentially asking his members to “subsidize” the federal program by offering reduced rates to eligible people, said Mr. Tremblay.

Ottawa is “basically asking us for charity,” he said, pledging to “continue charging our usual rates” and rejecting the idea that they are trying to negotiate their rates with the federal government.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has not yet taken a public position on the program and his office has not yet responded to a media request.

Mr. Holland said Nova Scotia MP and Conservative health critic Stephen Ellis has so far refused to meet with him to discuss the program.

“It’s interesting because the Minister of Health keeps touting the number of Canadians who have signed up for the dental program. I guess the challenge I would like you all to take on is how many dentists have signed up,” he said Wednesday.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116