Canadian Dental Care Plan is underfunded by $1.45 billion, squeezing out 4.4 million uninsured Canadians

Without more investment, the largest expansion of public health care in decades will exclude 11 per cent of Canadians
January 17, 2024

OTTAWA—The federal government’s new national public dental care plan is the most significant expansion of public health care in decades, but it’s not funded enough to include everyone who needs access to the plan, says a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

In Missing Teeth: Who’s left out of Canada’s dental care plan, CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald calculates that 4.4 million of all Canadians still won’t have private insurance and won't be covered by the dental care plan by the time the federal government finalizes the roll out in 2025-26.

 That’s because any household whose combined income is $90,000 or higher will be excluded from the dental care plan.

“A $45,000 salary for each parent in a two-parent household isn’t a king’s ransom in Canada,” says Macdonald. “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. Medicare has always been universal, and this dental care expansion should abide by the Canada Health Act and also cover everyone.”

There are three phases of the program. The first phase, underway through to June 2024 and called the Canada Dental Benefit (CDB), is a cash transfer of $1,300 per child if that child sees a dentist. That means 65 per cent of children under 12 without dental insurance could get the transfer but 35 per cent will be excluded because their parents make over $90,000.

Phase two, to be named the Canada Dental Care Plan (CDCP), starts at the end of this year and will be actual insurance. This second phase expands coverage to any children under 18, seniors and people with disabilities.

In phase three, the only eligibility restriction will be the $90,000 family income cap and the lack of other dental insurance. This phase will cover an additional 8.5 million people, but it will exclude 4.4 million Canadians due to the income restriction. An additional 1.4 million people might see their provincial dental insurance supplemented. 

The federal government could close this gaping loophole by adding an estimated $1.45 billion to the dental care plan and eliminating the income cap.

“There are two choices,” says 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. This holds true for the Canadian Dental Care Plan. And also, for a future pharmacare plan. They should both include everyone.”

Missing Teeth is available at: https://monitormag.ca/reports/missing-teeth/

For more information and interviews please contact Amanda Klang, CCPA Senior Communications Specialist (Media & PR) at [email protected]

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