Alberta’s threat to leave the Canadian Dental Plan has been met with confusion and backlash but also a chance to revise its policies. 

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Danielle Smith said that Alberta plans to withdraw from the federal plan by 2026. 

Smith stated that the plan infringes on provincial jurisdiction and should have been developed in collaboration with provinces and territories. 

Dr. Hans Herchen, the President-Elect of the Alberta Dental Association (ADA) spoke about the Premier's letter, saying it has only led to speculation with more questions than answers. 

He said there have been many concerns regarding the Canada Dental Benefit and the Dental Plan since it was first unveiled. 

“There's confusion with the plan, with who's eligible, there's confusion on details,” he said. “There's significant administrative barriers. There is confusion with access with enrollment because patients may have to find an office that is suitable to them." 

He believes this conversation can be turned into something positive, as a chance to update Alberta’s Dental Plan, which Herchen said has not been revised in several years. 

“The provincial dental plans are not modern, they're quite outdated and this is a beautiful opportunity to modernize the provincial dental program,” he said. “I think that this is a great opportunity for attending to the needs of Alberta patients.” 

Meanwhile, Health Canada said that more than 100,000 Albertans have already signed up for the Dental Care Plan with more expected to register once eligibility expands on Thursday. 

As for whether Alberta can walk away from the program, that was addressed by Federal Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault in Red Deer on Wednesday morning. He told reporters that it makes no difference what Alberta does as the plan involves people making claims through their dental offices who later bill the federal program for reimbursement. 

“It really doesn’t require the province at this point,” said NDP Health Critic Dr. Luanne Metz. “This idea, right now, that Danielle Smith is putting out there is to further her fight with the feds.” 

Health Canada, however, said that Alberta can opt out and receive compensation but the details of what that will look like will be determined with the province later on. They go on to say they will require confirmation that Alberta’s coverage is equivalent to or greater than that of the Canadian Dental Plan.

The ADA notes on its website that as of July 8, 2024, oral health providers can directly bill Sun Life for services provided on a claim-by-claim basis to receive payment under the Canadian Dental Care Plan. 

With the Canada Dental Benefit, households making less than $900,000 a year would be eligible for a tax-free payment for each child to receive dental care. The second phase of the program ends on June 30th. As of June 27th, applications for the Canadian Dental Care Plan will open for children under 18 and people 18–64 years old with a valid Disability Tax Credit. 

All remaining eligible Canadian residents will have access to the plan by 2025. 

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland is scheduled to speak to reporters on Thursday morning to officially launch the expanded eligibility for the plan.