Federal Dental Care Plan | Liberals and New Democrats disagree on deployment

(Ottawa) New Democrats and Liberals are at odds over the rollout of the new federal dental care plan, after the government announced it would not be fully in effect until 2025, contrary to the agreement it signed with the NDP.

Ultimately, the dental plan will cover all uninsured Canadians with an annual family income of less than $90,000. This program constitutes one of the main pillars of the agreement concluded between the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP), which aims to prevent the holding of elections before 2025.

The agreement calls for the program to be fully implemented by the end of the year, but on Wednesday the government announced that registration would not begin until next year for most adults aged 18 to 65 years.

This announcement goes against the assurances that NDP health critic Don Davies said he received from Health Minister Mark Holland last week.

“I received a clear answer that it would start before the end of 2024,” he said.

Mr Davies added that the understanding between the two parties is “absolutely clear” on when the program should be implemented.

“We hope that registrations will begin for everyone this year,” he said.

Minister Holland’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press about what was said to Mr. Davies.

So far, more than 400,000 people have started the registration process to join the federal scheme, which is expected to begin accepting applications in May.

Registration is currently open to people over 72 and will be extended in May to people aged 65 and over. People with disabilities and children under 18 will be able to register in June.

“All other eligible people will be able to apply online starting in 2025,” said Seniors Minister Seamus O’Regan during a press conference held in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Complex process

Asked about this delay compared to what is provided for in the agreement with the NDP, Minister Holland recalled that it is not easy to register up to nine million Canadians in the program.

“Would I like to get there tomorrow morning?” Yes. But logistics and reality restrict us. Our ambition must therefore be limited to do things well,” argued Mr. Holland.

The registration process can be a significant barrier for people wanting to access the program, especially for those who have never received oral health care before, he noted.

This is why the government wants to make everything as smooth as possible. Currently, for example, wait times to reach a government call center to begin the process are “almost instantaneous,” said the minister.

“We need to make sure, as much as possible, that we are doing things correctly and that [les personnes qui s’inscrivent] have a positive experience,” he reiterated.

Mr. Davies countered that Sun Life, the private company responsible for administering the plan, can process up to 500,000 applications per month, and that the money needed for full enrollment has already been budgeted.

“If there is any deviation from what is provided for in the support and confidence agreement, the NDP will take the government to task,” he promised.

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