Alberta touts 8.5% price cut under updated dental fee guide

The Alberta government has announced a new dental fee guide for 2018 that provides for an 8.5 per cent cut in suggested prices for 60 common procedures.

The fee guide, which the government says it developed in collaboration with the Alberta Dental Association and College, follows months of criticism of the regulator’s proposed changes earlier this year. It suggested a three per cent cut in fees, an amount the Alberta government quickly said was insufficient.

“It’s been a step that’s been long awaited,” said Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman at a news conference on Wednesday. Hoffman, who called the new fee guide a “yardstick for decision-making,” emphasized that the government wasn’t moving to regulate dental prices.

“This is significant savings for ordinary Albertans,” said Hoffman, noting Alberta is “no longer an outlier” in not having a fee guide.

Read: Suggested Alberta fees for some common dental procedures almost double B.C. rates

The new fee guide takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018, but, as the government points out, the amounts listed are merely suggestions. As an example of the impact of the changes, the new suggested charge for a first dental visit will be $71.17, which is down from $74.63 under the association and college’s earlier fee guide this year. The amount of the suggested fee reduction will vary by procedure, Hoffman noted. “Some have greater than that and some have less,” she said of the touted fee reduction of 8.5 per cent.

Alberta has faced years of criticism for having the highest dental fees in Canada. Even with the association and college’s suggested fee cuts earlier this year, prices for common procedures would still be double those in neighbouring British Columbia, Benefits Canada found this summer. As noted in an article in 2016, Alberta Blue Cross’ reasonable-and-customary fee for a recall exam was $72.50, which was far higher than the $27.70 suggested in British Columbia’s fee guide at the time. The association and college suggested $70.75 in Alberta under its fee guide this summer, an amount that will now fall to $64.19 under the latest changes.

Read: How do Alberta’s dental fees compare to other provinces?

Dr. Mintoo Basahti, president of the association and college, noted the regulator would update the fee guide each year. “We’re already seeing changes happen and, as this new guide comes into effect at the beginning of 2018, I think you will tend to see things trending down,” he said.