New federal dental plan will help millions of Canadians

Lauding new dental plan

To be frank, last week in Ottawa ended with incredible frustration and disappointment as we saw the Conservatives use their time in Parliament to play games with vital funding to government services, turning what should have been a couple of hours of supply funding votes into a 30-hour debacle of political games.

During that marathon session, which cost Canadians more than $1 million to run, the Conservatives voted to cut funding to everything from a suicide prevention hotline, school lunch programs, aid to Ukraine, Indigenous housing, the RCMP, the armed forces, Canada Border Services Agency, and so many more.

Of course, they were completely unsuccessful as all other MPs worked together to ensure the services you rely upon were safe from cuts.

This week, on the other hand, started spectacularly with the biggest expansion of our health care system in half a century. Thanks to sustained pressure and direction from the NDP, and as the centrepiece of our confidence and supply agreement with the Liberals, the government rolled out our national dental care program, which will save millions of families across Canada around $1,300 a year.

More importantly, the program will allow those families to live with good dental health and without the visible shame of decay. The national program will expand from previous announcements of coverage of children under 12 to cover 4.5 million seniors, people with disabilities and children under 18 who don’t have private insurance and (have family incomes) of less than $90,000.

I know many have asked about the specifics of the dental program, so here are some of the concrete details you can plan around.

To ensure a successful and smooth rollout of the program, Service Canada will accept applications in phases. Starting now, letters will be mailed to seniors aged 87 and above who may qualify, followed by those aged 77 to 86 in January 2024, then those aged 72 to 76 in February 2024 and those aged 70 to 71 in March 2024.

Those letters will include a personalized application code and instructions about how to apply. Seniors aged 65 to 69 will be able to apply starting in May 2024 and people with disabilities and children under 18 will be able to apply in June 2024. Applications for all remaining eligible Canadian residents, those who don’t have private insurance and whose family income is less than $90,000, will start by 2025.

Once enrolled, plan members will be sent a welcome package by Sun Life with a membership card and the start date for their dental care services. They will be able to start seeing dentists as early as May 2024, depending on when they apply.

So what services will be covered? The full list is longer, but main services include cleaning, polishing, fluoride; x-rays, fillings, root canals, complete and partial removable dentures, and extractions.

Those with coverage won’t need to pay upfront, rather dentists will have to submit claims directly to Sun Life. If your family income is less than $70,000, there is no co-payment. Those earning between $70,000 and $90,000, will be responsible for 40% of costs and for those earning between $80,000 and $89,9999, 60%.

The national dental program will be life-changing for more than a third of Canadians who have no dental insurance, and especially the nearly nine million Canadians who avoid the dentist because they simply can’t afford it.

I frequently hear from parents in our community who are worried about covering the cost of their kid’s dentist check-ups or from seniors who can’t afford the dental work they desperately need. Getting your teeth fixed isn’t a luxury, it's something everyone should be able to do, and now they will.

While the Conservatives used every tool at their disposal this week to try to cut programs, including opposing this crucial dental program, New Democrats still managed to get this done for Canadians.

I’ll close by saying Merry Christmas to everyone and I hope you all have a holiday season full of love, joy and rest.

Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan – West Kootenay.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More From The Hill articles