Politics

Dentists can bill for federal dental plan patients without signing up for program, government says

The federal government announced Wednesday that oral health care providers who provide services to Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP) clients can bill the insurance company directly without formally signing up for the program.

Dental associations have said the requirement was a barrier for some oral care providers

A dental hygienist cleans a senior's mouth, her tools are diplayed in the foreground.
Dentists have told CBC News that Ottawa's requirement that they sign a contract made them reluctant to participate in the new public dental care plan. (Brian Morris/CBC)

The federal government announced Wednesday that oral health care providers who provide services to Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP) clients can bill the insurance company directly without formally signing up for the program.

In early April, provincial dental associations told CBC News that Ottawa was requiring dental care providers to sign contracts to join the program, something no other public or private plans require.

Some dental association presidents said Ottawa had not provided enough information about the program.

They also said the contract requirement made some oral health providers refuse to participate in the public dental care plan.

The CDCP is set to start providing coverage next month.

Starting in early July, oral health providers can bill Sun Life — which manages the dental care program — for services on a claim-by-claim basis without signing up for the CDCP.

"This also means that CDCP clients can see any oral health provider they choose for their care, as long as the provider agrees to direct bill Sun Life for services provided under the plan," the federal government's announcement said.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Health Minister Mark Holland said he thinks the "vast majority of dentists are going to participate" in the program.

"There's really no reason for a dentist not to participate. It's completely illogical ... What I'm saying to dentists is to try it once," Holland said.

WATCH | Mark Holland discusses changes to the Canadian Dental Care Plan 

There's 'no reason for a dentist not to participate,' says health minister following dental care changes

1 month ago
Duration 4:05
After hearing concerns from dental professionals, federal Health Minister Mark Holland says changes to the new Canadian Dental Care Plan, announced Wednesday, will see the majority of dental providers opt in — and patients will 'never' have to pay up front.

Dr. Jenny Doerksen, president of the Alberta Dental Association, said there is still some hesitation with the program following the new announcement and there are questions about how the portal to submit claims will work.

"We cannot have a wrong start. Then this will fail and we don't want to fail our patients," Doerksen said.

In its announcement, the federal government also said that more than 5,000 oral health providers have "agreed" to treat CDCP clients.

Holland said "almost all of them" are dentists but he expects high participation rates among independent hygienists and denturists.

Do you have questions about how Canada's new dental care plan may affect you? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Lopez Steven is a reporter and part-time writer for CBC News Network. He's also a recent journalism graduate from Carleton University. You can reach him at benjamin.steven@cbc.ca or find him on Twitter at @bensteven_s.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg