Gateway Gazette

Pulling a tooth shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg: Wildrose suggests dental fee reforms

 

 

Most people don’t like going to the dentist.

It doesn’t matter how kind the hygienist is, or how friendly the dentist. It’s uncomfortable to sit there with your mouth wide open, having to grunt responses to polite – and horribly timed – questions.

Nevertheless, Albertans understand how critical these services are to our communities – especially for young families.

However, there is more that can be done to increase competition, improve services and reduce costs throughout Alberta’s dental system.

Here in Alberta, families pay more out-of-pocket on dentistry costs than anywhere else in the country, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent National Household Survey. In fact, costs have risen dramatically since 1997, when the Alberta Dental Association (now the Alberta Dental Association and College) stopped publishing their fees. Even insurance plans are growing more costly more quickly in Alberta than in other provinces.

Especially in these difficult economic times, when thousands of Albertans are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, Wildrose believes that Albertans don’t need more reasons to worry. That’s why, in response to the government’s review of dental fees, we have put forward a comprehensive strategy to address the strain on Albertans’ pocketbooks caused by the most expensive dental care in the country.

Our plan would increase transparency in Alberta’s dental system by allowing and encouraging dental offices to post pricing information online. It would also promote consumer choice and a competitive market by relaxing the strict limitations on advertising and promotional offers currently in place in the dental profession.

Now, we understand that the cost of doing business isn’t cheap, and that dentists must cover their overheads and make a profit margin. However, unlike almost all business owners in Alberta, our dental professionals are not operating within a transparent and efficient free market.

A strong market economy relies on competition: it unleashes innovation and passes savings from business efficiencies on to consumers. Competition allows for fair prices and fair profits, and provides a natural means of balancing a market quickly and efficiently.

It also removes the need for price controls.

The last thing Albertans want is a dental system burdened with more red tape and government regulation. Allowing and encouraging dental offices to make their prices publicly available and allowing dentists to advertise more freely would provide a more effective solution to record dental fees than imposing set fees.

There is a rare opportunity here to allow Albertans the ability to make informed decisions and exercise their purchasing power in choosing a dentist. We’d like to see a common-sense solution that brings best practices to the dentistry market – where consumers are empowered, and dentists are free to compete for your dollars.

We are disappointed that to date, the NDP government has rejected many of these constructive recommendations that would improve the lives of and health care choices for Albertans. If you agree with our suggested changes, I encourage you to send an email to the Health Minister at health.minister@gov.ab.ca.

Wildrose hopes the government will take up our proposals for increased transparency and consumer choice in dentistry as it reviews dental fees in our province.

We think it’s a good way to improve access and choice for families.

Drew Barnes is the Wildrose Shadow Health Minister

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