Federal and Provincial Budgets
Budget 2023: Projected cost of federal dental program set to more than double
By Laura Osman
The new federal budget shows the government’s dental-care insurance program is now set to cost more than double what the Liberals originally thought, adding another $7.3 billion over five years.
Last year, the government set up a temporary dental benefit for uninsured children under the age of 12 in families with a household income of less than $90,000.
That benefit will be scrapped by June 2024. In its place, Tuesday’s budget shows the Liberals are planning a government-administered insurance program, at a cost of $13 billion over five years beginning in fiscal year 2023-24.
“By the end of 2023, we will begin rolling out a dental care plan for what will eventually be up to nine million uninsured Canadians,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in her speech to the House of Commons after tabling the budget Tuesday, according to a prepared version of her remarks.
The Liberals will open eligibility to people without insurance who are under the age of 18, seniors, and people with disabilities who meet the income criteria this year.
They plan to expand that eligibility to anyone who meets the household income requirements by 2025.
The program is the linchpin of the Liberal’s confidence-and-supply deal with the NDP to prevent an election before 2025 in exchange for progress on some of the opposition party’s key priorities.
Original estimates were based on preliminary information gathered just weeks after the federal government signed on to the deal, but government officials say those estimates have since increased as they’ve learned what it will really cost to administer the program.
In the 2022 budget, the government estimated the ongoing cost of the program would be about $1.7 billion per year. Now that estimate has reached $4.4 billion.
More details about the kinds of services that will be covered have yet to be announced, but the budget does show the government plans to contract the claims process out to a private firm.
Families that make less than $70,000 will not have to make co-pays.
The government plans to require all employers to report on whether their staff have benefits as part of their T4 tax forms, to prevent anyone with existing insurance from being able to access the new federal plan.
The Liberals announced an Oral Health Access Fund in the budget, which would pay for initiatives that make it easier for vulnerable communities and people who live in rural and remote areas to care for their teeth.
The budget sets aside $250 million for the fund, starting in 2025-26 fiscal year with $50 million.
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