This week, the federal government released its budget, which finally revealed some very significant, long-anticipated, and expensive details about the new federal dental care program.
The federal governement confirmed in their budget 2023 that they would be proceeding with a full-fledged dental care plan that will eventually support up to nine million uninsured Canadians.
The plan will focus on providing coverage for uninsured Canadians with annual family incomes of less than $90,000, with no co-pays for those with family incomes under $70,000.
In 2023, the program will be open to people who are under the age of 18, seniors, and people with disabilities who meet the income criteria and do not have insurance.
By 2025, the coverage eligibility will expand to anyone who meets the household income requirements by 2025.
The government has been exploring delivering the program through an “insurance-type" scheme, similar to its existing programs for First Nations, Inuit, refugees, and veterans.
In this model, the patient would present proof of coverage to providers, who would in turn bill the government, less any potential co-pay fees, via a company contracted to act as Ottawa’s benefits administrator. This week, the federal government confirmed that they would indeed be deploying the program via a private sector partner. At present, they are currently consulting with three private benefit administrators, their selection process for a final partner will not likely take place until June.
The federal government is committing $13.0 billion over five years, starting in 2023, rather than the $5.3 billion it had budgeted last year. It now estimates that the ongoing cost of the program would be $4.4 billion annually, rather than its previous estimate of $1.7 billion.
The government is open to patients using a complementary mix of provincial and federal dental benefits. They have promised more details on service coverage and program design later in the year to address lingering questions and concerns.
In conclusion: The governement not only confirmed that dental care is going forward, they seemingly bet the house on it in this year’s budget. The dental professional associations have responded positively so far, while most provinces have stayed mum. However, the devil is in the details. Stay tunes as more information comes out about fees, coverage, and impacts on existing plans.