Ottawa Dental Care Program Accepts Claims for 1 Million Seniors

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

Posted on Wednesday, May 1, 2024 5:09 pmEDT

Last updated Wednesday, May 1, 2024 6:25 pmEDT

OTTAWA – More than 1,200 seniors have already visited a dentist and their claims have been processed under the federal government’s new dental care plan, the Liberals announced Wednesday.

The first million seniors to register for the program received their benefits card and became eligible to file claims under the program on May 1.

Citizen Services Minister Terry Beech said the first patient was seen at 7:08 a.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Announced the opening of a web portal where people over 65 who qualify and do not have insurance can apply for coverage.

“More than 13,000 people have already signed up this morning, which means I can share that 1.9 million Canadians are now enrolled in Canada’s dental care plan,” he said at a news conference Wednesday.

The government began enrolling seniors late last year. Children under 18 and people who receive the disability tax credit will be eligible to sign up next month.

So far, patients can only access services that do not require prior approval, and they may still have to pay part of the bill out of pocket if the government does not cover the full cost of treatment.

“Patients should confirm the amount that is not covered by the (program) and that they will need to pay directly to their provider,” Health Canada warned in a news release.

Until July, patients must also visit an oral health provider who is registered with the government.

Health Minister Mark Holland recently announced he plans to change the registration requirement for dentists, based on feedback he heard from dentists and other providers.

Health Canada said 6,500 oral health providers, including dentists, hygienists and denturists, have signed up to provide care to patients enrolled in the federal dental plan.

A recent survey by the Canadian Dental Association of 4,000 dentists across Canada shows that 61% would not participate in the program in its current state.

Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who was previously Health Minister, said dentists’ scruples have since disappeared.

“All of their concerns have been addressed,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. Starting this summer, dentists will not have to fully enroll in the program to treat patients covered by the program, for example.

But the association said its members still have reservations.

“Significant gaps remain in adequately addressing the needs of patients and dentists,” association president Dr. Joel Antel said in a statement.

He said dentists need more information about the terms and conditions they must agree to, how benefits will be coordinated across provincial programs and what level of services will be pre-authorized.

The program was conceived as part of a cooperative political pact between the Liberals and the New Democrats.

Once fully implemented, the program should be available to anyone without private insurance with a household income less than $90,000.

The government estimates this will mean coverage for up to nine million people, making the program the largest benefit program in Canadian history.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.

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