Feds’ Dental Care Plan to Cost More Than $10 Billion Over 5 Years: Budget Officer

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The federal government’s national dental care plan—introduced as a condition of its supply and confidence agreement with the NDP—will cost more than $10 billion over the next five years, says Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux.

The Liberal government introduced its “New Canadian Dental Care Plan” as part of the 2023 budget tabled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in late March.

The government allocated $13 billion for the program over the next five years, which was more than double the $6 billion that Ottawa had originally budgeted for the program.

The government’s plan, which it intends to begin by the end of 2023, will be aimed at initially providing dental coverage for uninsured Canadians under the age of 18, persons with disabilities, and seniors whose annual family income is less than $90,000.

By 2025, the government plans to extend the program to cover all uninsured Canadians with an annual family income under $90,000.

Giroux’s office published a legislative costing note for the program on June 28, saying that he anticipates it will “increase federal program spending by $10.1 billion over five years.”

The PBO said his estimate—which is $2.9 billion lower than what the federal government estimated the program would cost in Budget 2023—is based on the assumption that the provinces and territories will continue to provide any of their existing dental care programs in the future.

However, Giroux said that if the provinces and territories “reduce or eliminate” any of their dental coverage programs, the cost of the federal government’s new dental care plan would increase by nearly another $5 billion over five years.

‘Sources of Uncertainty’

Giroux also included some of what he called “sources of uncertainty” in his report, saying that his $10 billion estimate “does not account for retreatments” that could occur in the future, such as service coverage changes and amendments to the criteria of Canadians who are eligible to receive dental coverage through the program.

The PBO added that “forecasted inflation rates” could have an influence on the program’s costs.

Giroux also said his office estimated the program’s administrative costs based on the average provincial cost for similar dental coverage plans but said federal administration costs could turn out to be higher “depending on the exact design of the program.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously said the federal government “underestimated” how many Canadians would sign up for the new national dental care plan, which is why it increased its budget allocation for the program from $6 billion to $13 billion.

“The increase in the cost of dental care is due to the fact that we underestimated the need in Canada for families to send their kids to see a dentist,” Trudeau said on April 3.

“In a rich country like Canada, it’s not right for everyone not to have dental care.”

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