Ottawa – December 12, 2023
In a landmark announcement, the federal government launched a comprehensive $13-billion dental care plan on Monday, marking a significant step toward accessible oral health care for Canadians. The program is set to commence coverage for routine dentistry costs next year, prioritizing children under 18 and select seniors before expanding eligibility to all qualifying low- and middle-income Canadians in 2025.
Applications for seniors aged 87 and over will open later this month, with other age groups becoming eligible in the New Year. The phased application process aims to ensure a smooth rollout, anticipating millions of Canadians to benefit from this addition to Canada’s social safety net. Eligible participants can expect to start receiving benefits as early as May 2024, but costs incurred before the relevant start date will not be covered.
To qualify for the program, individuals must have a household income below $90,000, no access to existing private insurance, and must have filed a tax return for income verification. The plan is particularly favorable for households with incomes below $70,000, offering full coverage for services such as cleaning, examinations, X-rays, fillings, root canal treatments, and complete and partial removable dentures. Co-payments of 40% and 60% apply to those with incomes between $70,000 to $79,999 and $80,000 to $89,999, respectively, with the federal plan covering the remaining costs.
Health Minister Mark Holland described the initiative as “transformative,” addressing the needs of nearly nine million Canadians lacking dental insurance. The program aims to bridge gaps in the system without replacing existing provincial and territorial oral health services.
Seniors will be invited to apply through a staggered process, starting with those aged 87 and above in December 2023. The application method will transition from phone-based for seniors to online for those aged 65 and older in May 2024. Individuals with valid disability tax credit certificates and children under 18 can apply starting in June 2024.
The program, administered by Sun Life, will involve a dedicated call center to address queries and facilitate communication with Service Canada agents. An education campaign will inform oral health professionals about enrollment procedures, ensuring widespread participation.
While Minister Holland acknowledges ongoing discussions with other levels of government, concerns linger about the potential impact on existing provincial programs. The government remains optimistic about dentist participation, emphasizing relatively generous fees reimbursed across provinces. NDP MP Don Davies lauded the program as a “truly historic moment,” building on the legacy of Tommy Douglas and advancing comprehensive health coverage for Canadians.