More and more Flemish dentists charging higher fees

Summary

The cost of dental treatments is going up in Flanders, with almost half of local dentists now charging fees that exceed those recommended by the government

“Not dentists’ fault”

New figures from local medical insurers have revealed that more and more dentists are charging patient fees that exceed those recommended by the government.

Every couple years, local dentists and medical insurers together set the fees for dental treatments such as tartar removal, dental implants and the fitting of dentures. The fees for this year were agreed only last week.

According to figures from local health insurers, only 45% of Flemish dentists have opted to stick to the agreed fees. The remaining 65% will determine their own fees freely and charge supplementary fees. Patients who visit such dentists will pay higher fees for consultations and also be reimbursed less by their mutuality or health insurer.

“The increase in the cost price of their investments, of the products [dentists] use daily during consultations such as little drills, filling materials or gloves and in salaries, is not commensurate with in the increase in fees provided for in the agreement” with health insurers, said Stefaan Hanson from the Flemish Dentists’ Union.

Hanson told VRT that the problem lay not with dentists, but with low levels of reimbursement. “People say that the dentist is expensive, but it’s not the dentist. Dentistry is not sufficiently funded in this country compared to other countries,” he explained. “This means that in practice more people will delay going to the dentist, especially people with a lower income.”

According to Hanson, just 3% of the national budget goes toward dentistry, while for Germany the figure is for instance 10%.

In a response, federal health minister Maggie De Block noted that budgetary constraints have forced the government to focus its efforts on prevention as well as vulnerable groups such as cancer patients.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 people living in poverty in Belgium delay visits to the dentist due to financial constraints.

Photo: Belga / Anthony Dehez

Health-care system

The health-care system is federally organised in Belgium. Competing health insurance providers and a proportional contribution-based system ensure that healthcare is accessible to virtually all citizens and costs remain relatively low.
Law - From the age of 25, Belgian citizens and residents – both employees and those self-employed – are legally obliged to have health insurance.
Insurance providers - The mutualiteiten or mutual insurance associations are typically Christian, liberal, socialist or independent.
Services - Refunds are given for services such as doctor’s consultations, prescribed medication and hospital care costs.
1 945

national health-care system is born

13

percent of salary employees contribute to social security

50

to 75% of healthcare costs reimbursed by mutuality