Alberta Blue Cross sees need for more substantive reforms on dental costs

August 2017

Alberta Blue Cross appreciates the Alberta Dental Association and College's acknowledgement that corrective action is needed toward addressing the high fees charged by dentists for dental services in Alberta—as reflected in the association’s August 17 announcement of a new suggested dental fee guide. High fees charged by Alberta dentists are out of line with the rest of Canada, are a deterrent to regular dental care for Albertans and are making the cost of dental benefit plans unsustainable for employer group plan sponsors and individuals alike.

But while the announcement of a dental fee guide is a positive gesture, the level of reduction in such fees would need to be significant to address the extreme high costs that Alberta consumers continue to face. A two or three per cent reduction is a start, but as fees Alberta dentists charge continue to be 26 to 32 per cent higher in Alberta than other western provinces, a small reduction may be more about making news headlines than making a real difference for Albertans.

As the largest payer of dental services in Alberta, Alberta Blue Cross pays in excess of $430 million annually to dental providers. As dental benefits are a key aspect of the coverage we provide to Albertans, we have a keen interest in dental fees as they directly affect the viability of our customers’ benefit plans and the affordability of regular dental care and treatment for Albertans.

Alberta Blue Cross provided input directly to the Minister of Health in fall of 2015 in support of the Minister’s review of high dental fees in Alberta, and applauds the Minister’s interest in addressing this issue. From our perspective, desired reforms include implementing restorative controls to bring the extremely high costs for dental services in Alberta back in line with other provinces, as well as mandating more open pricing to support consumer choice and foster competition, and separating the role of the regulatory body that oversees the practice of dentistry in Alberta.

While today’s announcement by the dental association is a good first step toward recognizing that action is needed to address this important issue, Alberta Blue Cross still sees the need for significant reforms on pricing and welcomes the opportunity to work with the association as well as other stakeholders to ensure this important issue is properly addressed—and that the interests of Albertans are considered.

About Alberta Blue Cross

As Alberta’s largest health and dental benefit provider, Alberta Blue Cross covers more than 1.6 million Albertans and in 2016 processed over 60 million claim lines with a value exceeding $2.39 billion. Alberta Blue Cross is a not-for-profit organization with a unique legislative mandate to support the health and wellness of Albertans.

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