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Smith tells Trudeau Alberta will opt out of federal dental plan


Alberta is opting out of the federal dental plan, the premier told the Canadian government late Tuesday afternoon.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Danielle Smith said the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP) infringes on provincial jurisdiction.

"If a new health program was to be developed by the federal government, it should be done in full collaboration with provinces and territories, and discussions should have occurred before these intentions are announced. Unfortunately, this did not occur," Smith wrote.

"As such, Alberta intends to opt out of the federal plan and maintain its provincial programs for Albertans. Alberta is seeking to negotiate an agreement for the province’s share of federal dental funding and will use this unconditional funding to expand dental coverage to more low-income Albertans. We anticipate our respective officials can negotiate mutually agreeable terms within a two-year timeframe and plan to opt out by 2026."

'Not a free program'

Last December, Ottawa promised to spend $13 billion over the next five years on the plan.

Canadians who filed a tax return last year with no access to dental insurance and earning less than $90,000 are eligible.

The program already covers kids under 12 and seniors over 65. Now it will also include all children under 18 and anyone with a valid disability tax credit certificate.

"It does create a lot more paperwork. On top of that, though, there is just such an unknown. We don't quite know who is even covered," Alberta Dental Association president-elect Dr. Hans Herchen said.

He's part of the roughly 60 to 70 per cent of Alberta dentists not currently signed up for the program. He cites concerns of misinformation and argues patients are being promised "free care" when they may still be expected to pay out of pocket.

"This is not a free program," he said. "That's a very real concern. So many Canadians have been told their dental will now be free."

Dr. Joel Antel, president of the Canadian Dental Association, said: "Dental offices [are] reporting they have to spend up to an hour a day taking people away from clinical and admin time to explain the program."

He also says the plan will limit patient choice.

"You are also going to have people left in a very sad situation of having to go to dental office to dental office asking, 'Are you taking part?'"

Canada's health minister insists dentists were consulted in the plan's creation, promising work is underway to get more on board.

"We expect very soon to see most provinces, over half of oral health professionals, participating," Holland said.

Health Canada says more than two-million seniors have enrolled in the program, including more than 100,000 Albertans, said Christopher Aoun, press secretary to Holland.

"Albertans and Canadians deserve high quality, affordable oral health care, and the Canadian Dental Care Plan is delivering exactly that," Aoun told CTV News Edmonton in a statement.

"We look forward to working with the province so Albertans can get the dental care they need.” Top Stories


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