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Seniors eligible for federal dental care coverage struggle to find participating dentists


Nancy Slauenwhite has been eagerly awaiting the launch of the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP.)

Despite having no dental care coverage, the 72-year-old is in need of some dental work.

So when she received her federal CDCP card in the mail, she contacted her dental office to make an appointment.

“I was so excited,” said Slauenwhite.

But the receptionist she spoke with over the phone had some bad news.

“She said ‘we’re not accepting clients at this time under that plan,’” said Slauenwhite.

Georgina MacDonald also received her federal dental care coverage plan in the mail but couldn’t find a dentist office who was enrolled in the program and accept her as a patient.

The 78-year-old gave up trying after speaking with five different dental officers in the Halifax region with no success.

“Like a whole lot of other people, I don’t have any dental coverage and so I don’t go to the dentist as often as I should,” said MacDonald.

In May, eligible Canadians 65 and older will qualify for the CDCP but MacDonald questions what good is the national program if she can’t find a dentist to honour the terms.

“Nobody is honouring the card until they get more information, is what I understand,” said MacDonald. “To me that makes the card worthless.”

Of the 600 dentists in Nova Scotia currently, only a handful have enrolled.

The president of the Nova Scotia Dental Association says at last count maybe four to six dental offices have enrolled.

Dr. Juli Waterbury says contract issues and staffing constraints is leading to the low enrolment.

“If you’re already dealing with a capacity issues and staff shortages and you are not taking on any new patients, than having to deal with this administrative burden, and ensuring that you are meeting all the criteria of this plan, for some offices, is just too much,” said Waterbury, a registered dentist and president of the NSDA.

While trying to find answers from dental office, Slauenwhite was told to contact her MLA, who then directed her to contact the federal government.

She shared her disappoint in a letter to the prime minister.

“I tried to choose my words carefully but there was a few caps and exclamations used,” said Slauenwhite. “They tell us they are going to do something like that for us, and then shoot us down.”

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons have been advocating for a national dental care plan for years and its former chair and senior spokesperson Bill VanGorder says the rollout has been fumbled majorly.

“We’ve got over ten thousand members in Nova Scotia and I am hearing from them regularly saying, ‘they got this card in the mail but it doesn’t do anything for them,” said VanGorder.

Many seniors VanGorder says, have put off getting dental work done in anticipation of this program, only to hit a road block and be worse off for it.

“They have no agreement with the dentists and they have no agreement with the other Provinces, there is no program,” he said.

The Nova Scotia Dental association says the federal government is looking at an alternative pathway for dentist to participate in the national dental program without enrolling and signing individual contracts.

Waterbury estimates that a new agreement could be reached before the end of the summer, but says there’s no clear indication whether the federal government has taken into account all of their concerns.

The federal government announced changes to the agreement this week and have taken steps to increase the participation of dental care providers

Minister of Health Mark Holland announced the government is no longer requiring the dentist and patient to enter individual contracst under the CDCP, but instead, the updated plan will allow dental health providers to directly bill Sun Life for services “on a claim-by-claim” basis.

The federal government says this policy change will take effect on July 8th and means any client looking for care under the program can receive it, as long as the dental office agrees to direct bill Sun Life who is the CDCP administrator.

Meanwhile many seniors like Slauenwhite are waiting for that promised care plan.

”They gotta get their act together,” she said. Top Stories

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