How should Alberta deal with rising dental fees?

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Health Matters: Feb 24
WATCH ABOVE: Heather Yourex-West has your daily health and wellness news – Feb 24, 2016

CALGARY – The Alberta Wildrose Party says more competition, not regulations, are needed to combat rising dental fees in the province.

“It starts with allowing dentists a lot more opportunity to advertise their services and a lot more flexibility in how they want to reach out to consumers in Alberta,” Wildrose shadow Health Minister Drew Barnes said.

In a letter to Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman released Wednesday, Barnes outlined a number of suggested reforms for Alberta’s dental system. Those reforms include:

  • Encouraging dental offices to voluntarily post prices for common procedures online;
  • Relaxing limitations on advertising currently in place in the dental profession;
  • Ensure great public accountability by splitting the Alberta Dental Association and College into two distinct groups.
Iorder for prices to operate competitively, the consumer must have as much information as possible at hand.” 
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According to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, over the last ten years, dental fees in Alberta have been increasing more quickly than any other province. As a result, Albertans currently pay a lot more for service.
In Alberta, for example, the association found an insurance company will pay $141 for a 30-minute cleaning. The same cleaning would cost $110 in Ontario and $78.30 in British Columbia.
Alberta’s Health Minister says she understands rising fees are difficult for many people in the province,  but she doesn’t believe the Wildrose proposal offers the right solutions.
“Albertans are rightly concerned about the high costs of dental care, which is why our government launched a review of dental fees last fall,” Sarah Hoffman said in an e-mail to Global News.  “Rather than working with us to ensure good quality, affordable health and dental care for Albertans, the opposition would rather jump on any opportunity to expand privatization. It’s not what Albertans want, but unfortunately it seems it’s all the opposition has to offer besides cutting jobs and services.”
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Alberta dentists have not followed a fee schedule since 1997, but Dr. Harry Ames, membership coordinator with the Alberta Dental Association, believes not having one helps keeps prices down.
“As some insurance companies have pointed out – in provinces where there are fee guides, fees seem to all cluster around the same value, which reduces competition.”
Ames says high fees in Alberta are more likely due to higher overhead cost.
“Statistics Canada did an analysis of dentist earnings across the country -and they found that dentists in general are earning more or less the same across Canada. So it’s the cost of doing business that’s higher, which more or less leads to higher fees.”

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