More action needed to drive down Alberta’s high-cost dental care

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says more action is needed to drive down unacceptably high-cost dental care.

“We need a strong mandate for change in order to drive down unacceptably high-cost dental care in Alberta,” says Swann. “Instead, the NDP seems content just to tweak the status quo.

“They made an easy decision, rather than showing the real leadership Albertans need from their government today.”

Swann’s comments come in reaction to a government announcement unveiling revisions to the new fee guide that the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADAC) released to the public without ministerial input in August.

“Having a fee guide that more accurately reflects average prices and client expectations is good, but does little to resolve the problem of high, unregulated dental costs, including outrageous hygienist fees,” says Swann. “It will take a year or more to see if the guide will have any effect. Meanwhile, Albertans will still pay through the nose, since dentists can ultimately charge whatever they want.”

Swann points out there are many obstacles to overcome even with a new fee guide in place.

“Making an informed consumer decision is harder than both the ADAC and the government would have you believe,” says Swann. “Dentists should be required to discuss prices up front and publicly list their standard prices in comparison to the Fee Guide.

“If the government is serious about making dental health care affordable for the majority of Albertans, it needs to apply more pressure to lower costs, encourage open competition and ensure greater accountability for these high fees.”

Swann has been a vocal advocate for reducing dental fees in Alberta. He recently wrote to the Minister of Health to encourage her to take a stronger stand and press the ADAC to liberalize dental advertising rules, as well as consider separating the ADAC into separate entities.

Given the extreme demands on public dental services, there is also clearly a need to increase public funding for services to children and low-income Albertans.

Swann’s letter and the Minister’s reply are available for viewing here on the Liberal Opposition website.