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New dental care plan leaves out 4.4 million uninsured Canadians: report

As the federal government’s national dental insurance program continues to roll out, a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) argues that the plan leaves too many Canadians without coverage and need an additional $1.45 billion in funding.

In order to qualify for the Canadian Dental Care Plan — the national dental insurance program was brought about as a part of the supply-and-confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP — applicants must have a household income of less than $90,000 and have no existing dental coverage. But in its “Missing Teeth” report released Tuesday, the CCPA says the income criteria is too restrictive.

“A $45,000 salary for each parent in a two-parent household isn’t a king’s ransom in Canada,” CCPA senior economist David Macdonald said in a news release Monday. “In fact, 59 per cent of families with children make over $90,000. But making more than that excludes families from receiving federal dental care coverage.”

Prior to the start of the rollout of the Canadian Dental Care Plan, the federal government began offering the Canada Dental Benefit in December 2022, which provides $260 to $650 per child under 12 per year to cover dental expenses for families making less than $90,000. However, the CCPA says that leaves out 425,749 children under 12, or 35 per cent, because their family income is too high.

The Canada Dental Benefit is set to be superseded by the Canadian Dental Care Plan, which has been rolling out in phases, starting with seniors becoming eligible between December 2023 and May 2024. Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and children under 18 can start applying as of this June, while all remaining eligible Canadians are set to gain access in 2025.

According to calculations from the CCPA, the new program will provide dental insurance for 8.5 million Canadians, while an additional 1.4 million already benefit from some provincial dental programs but may be improved coverage through the federal program. However, the $90,000 income cap leaves out 4.4 million.

Furthermore, if the income cap isn’t indexed to inflation, the report notes that “fewer and fewer people will be able to access them over time.”

The upcoming dental plan is budgeted at $13 billion over five years, with $4.4 billion being budgeted annually once the program is completely rolled out. However the CCPA is calling on the feds to provide an additional $1.45 billion per year in funding to make the program universal, much like going to a hospital or the doctor’s office.

“There are two choices,” said Macdonald. “The first is continuing to create new medical care programs with a fill-in-the-gaps model and an income cap, like Canada is currently doing on dental care. The second is delivering on the promise of the Canada Health Act, which is based on health care for all and imposes no income threshold for care.”

With files from CTV News’ Avis Favaro and Rachel Aiello

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