Many people are anxious when visiting the dentist. Some are concerned about the possible pain and time involved in the procedures. Others are worried about the costs. Since it was phased out in the late 1990s, a dental fee guide Alberta patients can rely upon to predict prices has not existed. Other provinces have continuously updated guides the public can turn to when considering future dental work and preventative services. Patients in Alberta with private insurance could look to their insurer’s coverage lists for some idea as to their out of pocket responsibilities after 1997, but it was hard to compare and contrast prices among dental providers.
Because Canada’s national system of health insurance (Medicare) chose not to include dental care the concerns patients have about the cost of procedures are understandable. A family budget can be stretched to include dental care that is predictable in cost, but expensive surprises are an entirely different matter. When the local dental providers agree to develop a menu of common procedures and prices it makes it much easier to plan for the completion of needed dental work and preventative services. Smart consumers always want to have price points to rely upon, and dental costs paid out of pocket are no exception.
Recent efforts in Alberta signal that a dental fee guide is back on the table. Dental professionals had argued the lack of a schedule would permit market forces to keep prices affordable and foster healthy competition. Many in the province would now point out competition did not offer dental patients the protections from spiralling costs that were predicted. In fact, a provincial review of the industry indicated that prices were already higher and growing faster than those in the other provinces of Canada. Alberta’s Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced a new fee guide for a wide range of dental services and procedures would be established for Alberta in a statement made in early December 2016.
Time will tell whether the new fee guide for dental services in Alberta will reduce the financial stress of patients attempting to care for their dental needs. Patients will soon be able to make decisions with more certainty and select the best price from the practitioner who meets their needs for both care and price. The ultimate goal will be that patients will get the services they need at a cost they can afford.