Ottawa launches $13B dental-care program

The federal government unveiled its new dental-care plan on Monday — a $13-billion insurance program that will start covering routine dentistry costs next year for people who meet a certain income threshold.

Ottawa will cover kids under 18 and some seniors first before expanding the program to all eligible low- and middle-income Canadians in 2025.

Applications for seniors aged 87 and over will open later this month. Other age groups will be able to apply in the new year.

The staggered application process is designed to make the rollout as smooth as possible. The government says it expects millions of people to avail themselves of this new component of Canada’s social safety net.

Coverage will be phased in over time, but some eligible participants will start to receive benefits as early as May 2024. Costs incurred before the relevant start date will not be covered.

This insurance-based program replaces the interim program that has been sending cheques directly to families with kids under 12 for the last year.

To be eligible for the program, a person must have a household income below $90,000 and no access to an existing private insurance plan. The person must also have filed a tax return so the government can verify income.

The plan is most generous for families that have household incomes below $70,000. They face no co-pays to a participating dentist, hygienist or denturist, and Ottawa will pick up the tab for covered services like cleaning, polishing, examinations, X-rays, fillings, root canal treatments and complete and partial removable dentures.

Families with incomes between $70,000 and $79,999 will face a 40 per cent co-pay, and for those in the $80,000 to $89,999 income bracket, the co-pay jumps to 60 per cent. The federal plan will cover the rest of the costs incurred.

Services to be covered under the Canadian dental care plan: 

  • Preventive services, including scaling (cleaning), polishing, sealants and fluoride
  • Diagnostic services, including examinations and X-rays
  • Restorative services, including fillings
  • Endodontic services, including root canal treatments
  • Prosthodontic services, including complete and partial removable dentures
  • Periodontal services, including deep scaling
  • Oral surgery services, including extractions.

Health Minister Mark Holland described the government’s plan as “transformative” because it will provide coverage to the nearly nine million Canadians who do not already have access to dental insurance.

“We know we can have the best health system in the world and today is a monumental step in that direction,” Holland said.

“It’s going to make life better for eligible Canadian residents who won’t have to choose between paying their bills and getting the help they absolutely need,” he said.

Citizens’ Services Minister Terry Beech said Canadians do not need to do anything at this stage — the federal government will reach out to eligible people by mail to invite them to apply for the benefit when it’s their turn.

The first letters will go out to invite seniors 70 and up to apply for the plan — those seniors will apply over the phone.

Here’s when seniors can expect to receive those letters:

  • Seniors aged 87 and above starting in December 2023
  • Seniors aged 77 to 86 starting in January 2024
  • Seniors aged 72 to 76 starting in February 2024
  • Seniors aged 70 to 71 starting in March 2024

Then, in May 2024, the application process will switch from the telephone to online as people aged 65 and older become eligible to apply.

People with valid disability tax credit certificates and children under 18 will be able to apply starting in June 2024.


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