A new commitment to public dental insurance was one of the key parts of the March 2022 Supply and Confidence Agreement between the NDP and Liberal parties. This new form of insurance is unfolding over three distinct phases between 2022 and 2025.
At each phase, the categories of who receives dental care coverage expand to cover more people. However, some of the basic design elements remain the same when it comes to considering who is excluded from this plan. Canada’s new dental care plan only covers Canadians who aren’t insured through an existing private plan or who are poorly covered by a public plan (Appendix 1 provides a discussion of the interaction between existing provincial fill-in-the-gap dental programs and the new federal plan). There are also family income restrictions: if a family makes below $90,000 annually, it gets coverage with co-payments; a family whose income is below $70,000 annually gets coverage without co-payments. All families whose income is over $90,000 a year will be left out of all phases of the new federal plan—even if they aren’t currently covered by a dental insurance.
The choice for what comes next is twofold: (1) Continue 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, or (2) Align new medical care programs with the principles of the Canada Health Act, which is based on the underlying principle of health care for all.
The findings in this analysis of Canada’s nascent national dental care plan might also be relevant to the much anticipated announcement of a national pharmacare plan. Income restrictions could leave millions of Canadians out of both plans while a universal program would align with the principles of the Canada Health Act—everyone should be eligible for these programs.