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Alberta Blue Cross customers to see lower rates in conjunction with dental fee guide changes

Alberta Blue Cross is reducing rates on group benefit plans for thousands of Alberta employers across the province in conjunction with recent dental fee guide changes.

Effective January 1, 2018, Alberta Blue Cross employer group benefit plans that reference Usual and Customary dental fees have been aligned with the new Alberta Dental Association and College dental fee guide and now reference the fees contained in that guide. As a result, employers whose plans follow the guide are expected to experience a reduction in claims costs for many common and highly utilized dental procedures. The fee guide was introduced by the association under pressure from the Alberta government to reduce dental costs—which continue to be the highest in Canada.

Alberta Blue Cross is the only benefit provider to announce that it will be passing these savings on to its customers.

“As the largest payer of dental services in Alberta, Alberta Blue Cross pays in excess of $430 million annually to dental providers on behalf of our customers,” says Ray Pisani, President and CEO of Alberta Blue Cross. “As a not-for-profit organization with a unique legislative mandate to serve the health and wellness of Albertans, we are committed to delivering the best value to our customers and ensuring the continued viability of our customers’ benefit plans.”

Alberta Blue Cross administers group benefit plans for over 5,700 employers across the province with employees across the country ranging in size from small businesses right up to Alberta’s largest employers.

For those employers whose insured plans reference the dental fee guide, Alberta Blue Cross will provide an immediate rate reduction to the dental benefit rate of 6.5 per cent, effective March 1, 2018, which groups will see on their March bill. It will also be lowering the renewal inflation factor for groups renewing throughout the rest of 2018.

Large employers whose plans are administered on an administrative services only basis will realize immediate savings through reduced claims costs beginning in January 2018. The direct impact of the reduction will vary based on plan design, utilization and plan member/dental provider behaviour.

Those Albertans with dental coverage through Alberta Blue Cross individual health plans will also see some savings—as individual plan holders will continue to pay premiums at 2017 levels other than adjustments related to age bands.

Alberta Blue Cross dental plans that follow other managed bases of payment are not affected by this change.

Alberta Blue Cross also reminds plan members that as the new dental fee guide is voluntary, dental offices across Alberta still charge widely varying prices. In fact, a recent review of claims indicated that the cost of a check-up and cleaning ranged from $340 to well over $500. As such, it’s important to understand that although more dental offices across the province are starting to promote their acceptance of the new fee guide, dental providers may charge more than what a plan pays regardless of the level of coverage provided through the plan.