(OTTAWA) The leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) warns that his party’s flexibility has limits when it comes to dental care in the country.
Updated yesterday at 11:55 a.m.
Jagmeet Singh says the NDP let the government issue checks to eligible families rather than implement a universal dental insurance program. The party wants it to be presented as early as next year, otherwise it will withdraw from the agreement allowing the minority Liberals to govern in complete peace of mind.
The Liberals promised the NDP last March a new dental program for low- and middle-income families, as part of a “support and confidence agreement” aimed at keeping the Liberal minority government in power. , if possible, until 2025.
Under the agreement, the government had until the end of the year to provide some form of coverage for children under 12 with family incomes of less than $90,000, failing which the NDP promised to withdraw.
Mr. Singh acknowledges that this timeline is ambitious. That is why his party agreed to a temporary measure. “This flexibility has allowed the government to deliver the goods in a flexible way,” he says.
Instead of presenting a comprehensive program, the government chose to issue checks to eligible families. Each family received up to $650 per eligible child based on income.
To get the Canadian Dental Benefit, a family must have an adjusted annual net income of less than $90,000. She must certify that her child does not have private coverage for dental care. They will be required to pay out-of-pocket for dental expenses for which they will use the benefit and will be required to provide documentation for verification purposes for expenses they have paid out-of-pocket, such as receipts, if required.
The government also announced that this benefit is only “the first step” towards the full implementation of a dental care program for households with incomes below $90,000 by 2025.
Singh says the NDP has backed the Canada Dental Benefit on the condition that the program be ready by the end of next year.
The program is then to be extended to all children under the age of 18, the disabled and the elderly by the end of 2023 and all eligible family members by 2025.
And the party will only support a program administered entirely by the federal government, adds Mr. Singh. This means that the federal government should not rely on the provinces to manage this program, as it did for the child care program.
The federal health ministry said the government continues to work with partners, including provinces and territories, to improve access to dental care. Further details will be released “at the appropriate time”.
According to Carlos Quinonez, associate dean and director of the dentistry program at Western University, the fact that the government is taking its time to present a fair program is good news.
“For me, the best scenario would be that we take one, two or even three years to really think about all the elements that must be examined to ensure the success of such a program,” he believes. .
For example, the government must ensure that people without dental insurance get services without undermining “the good system” already in place, warns Mr. Quinonez.
The NDP is calling for the program to include “the highest possible coverage rate” in order to provide services aimed at protecting citizens’ quality of life.
“It has to be synonymous with superior quality: the best quality of care, the best practices,” says Mr. Singh, who recognizes, however, that certain services will have to be excluded from the program.
The balance is difficult to achieve, says Mr. Quinonez.
“In my opinion, this is a very important issue. The program must not only be scientifically defensible, it must also be ethically defensible. »
It’s also a very complex issue because health and aesthetics are closely linked in dentistry, underlines Catherine Carstairs, a professor of history at the University of Guelph and author of a book on the history of oral care. and social inequalities.
“It is difficult to distinguish in dentistry what is necessary from what is aesthetic, because these issues are intertwined. »
The PD Carstairs says she was disappointed with the new Canada Dental Benefit, but still hopes the government will eventually implement a comprehensive program.
” [La Prestation] does not go very far to meet the needs of the population, she argues. However, I am glad to see that the government is still considering carrying out this program in one way or another. »