Rough rollout out for feds new dental care plan in Kamloops, Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Rough rollout out for feds new dental care plan in Kamloops, Okanagan

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 A new Canadian dental plan has been slowly rolling out over the past six months but some of the kinks still need to be ironed out in order for everyone who qualifies to get the dental work they need done.

The Canadian Dental Care Plan was created to subsidize dental care costs for Canadians who don't have a dentist, with applications opening in a phased approach beginning with seniors aged 87 and above in December, 2023.

However, there appears to be a delay in dental professionals signing up to meet the demand.

“There are not a lot of participating dentists so far,” said Allison Willford, a registered dental hygienist based in the Shuswap. “It’s getting settled slowly but (the federal government) should have planned it better before announcing it.”

Willford travels to communities in the BC Interior bringing dental care to people who can’t drive or don’t have access to dental care, including Kamloops, Logan Lake and the Okanagan. 

The company she works for signed up for the new dental plan right away.

“Our company jumped right on it when we heard because it’s helping people,” she said. “There are reasons why not every care provider is signing up.”

Willford pointed to the extra paperwork put on dental care providers as the biggest deterrent to sign up for the plan.

“Because of the paperwork, in order to get your money back from the government, it takes forever when we deserve it back right away,” she said. “Dental offices don’t have the time and a minute is a dollar unfortunately.”

Letters were sent out to potentially eligible seniors in December, including a personalized application code and instructions on how to apply over the phone.

In order to qualify for the plan, participants must be Canadian citizens, have filed a tax return for the previous year, have an adjusted family net income of less than $90,000, and have no access to private dental insurance.

The rollout started with seniors aged 65-plus and this month the invitation was extended to people with disability tax credit certificates and children under age 18. The rest of the population will have access next year.

The plan covers preventative services including cleaning, polishing, sealants and fluoride, examinations and X-rays, fillings, root canals, dentures, deep scaling and extractions.

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Willford said it is misleading what dental costs the letters say are covered under the plan.

“The letter you get tells you what percentage you’re covered for but it isn’t based on a BC fee guide,” she said. “There’s a dentist fee guide and a ministry fee guide, so when you go to a dental office the fee guide can be higher for some dental work and the cost isn’t fully covered.

“It’s misleading and lot of people are confused. There will be a lot of upset people when the bill comes. We have a lot of patients calling, asking how it works.”

According to the federal government website, some misinformation has been spreading among the oral health provider community.

“Being a CDCP oral health provider will NOT impose an additional administrative burden on your office. You can submit your digital CDCP claims in the same way you submit your claims for private insurance plans through your existing electronic data interchange  software. 

"We have made it as easy as possible for you to submit claims and receive accurate and fast reimbursement. You will be able to sign up for Electronic Funds Transfer on Sun Life Direct to receive claim payments by direct deposit. You can receive claim payments by direct deposit within 48 hours initially, and we will move towards a 24-hour turnaround time."

In order to make it easier for oral care providers, changes to the plan are being made next month.

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As of July 8, oral health providers will be able to direct bill Sun Life for services provided on a claim-by-claim basis without having to formally sign up for the plan. They will be able to treat a patient and submit the claim to Sun Life for direct reimbursement, which mean clients can see any dentist who will agree to bill Sun Life under the plan. Dentists will still need to confirm the patient is eligible for the benefits, confirm the patient is covered for the services and submit a claim with the assignment of benefits.

The fees the plan covers can differ from the provincial fee guides providers use to charge for services.

“Before receiving oral health care, you should always ask your oral health provider about any costs that won’t be covered by the plan," the website reads. "Make sure you know what you’ll have to pay directly to your oral health provider ahead of receiving treatment."

To see what oral care providers are currently signed up for the plan in your community, you can check the Sun Life website here.

Currently, there are roughly 40 oral care providers on the plan in Kamloops, 20 in Vernon, about 40 in Kelowna, 10 in West Kelowna and not very many in Penticton or Summerland.

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Willford said she's optimistic the plan will be ironed out and more oral health care providers will participate.

“Before there was nothing for some people in need of dental care, so now there is a least something we can build on,” she said.

 Willford and her team at The Travelling Hygienist will go anywhere anyone needs oral care and dental hygienists can do most oral care services except permanent fillings and extractions.

“We try to reach out those who don’t drive and don’t have access to dental care, or don’t drive in the winter,” she said. “If we can’t do the work, we can do referrals and send the patient in the right direction.”

— This article was update at 1:52 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, 2024 to say the views of Allison Willford do not reflect those of the company she works for.

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