Hon. Jane Cordy: Senator Gold, by the government’s own estimation, one third of Canadians do not have dental insurance and one in five avoid dental services because the price is prohibitive. We know that dental care is health care. Poor oral health can lead to a myriad of other health issues and a deterioration of quality of life. I applaud the government for its commitment to providing financial assistance to those Canadians who face barriers in accessing dental services by bringing forward the new Canadian Dental Care Plan.
My question today is from Cliff Williams, a Nova Scotia senior, who is relying on the new program to access dental services. To date, the government has been vague with specifics about when the benefit will be available to all eligible Canadians.
Senator Gold, could you tell Mr. Williams when he and other Canadian seniors will be able to access the dental services under the new Canadian Dental Care Plan?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you very much for your question. Every Canadian deserves to have access to good oral health care. Yet the government knows — and Canadians know — that approximately one third of Canadians cannot visit an oral health care professional because they don’t have dental insurance.
I’m advised that the first phase of the government’s plan, the interim Canada Dental Benefit, has already helped over 366,000 children under the age of 12 get the dental care they need.
To answer your question, I am further advised that the Canadian Dental Care Plan is expected to begin rolling out by the end of this year, and by 2025, the Canadian Dental Care Plan will be fully implemented to cover all uninsured Canadians with an annual family income under $90,000. This government remains committed to ensuring that Canadians can get access to quality dental care, which is important, colleagues, as we know, not only for oral health but for overall health. Thank you.
Senator Cordy: Thank you, Senator Gold. I know that families with children 12 and younger have had access to dental benefits under the interim Canada Dental Benefit. Have there been lessons learned from the rollout of the interim Canada Dental Benefit that will be applied to the new Canadian Dental Care Plan when it becomes accessible to eligible seniors?
How will the Canadian Dental Care Plan be communicated to eligible Canadians when it finally becomes available because it’s important that seniors know what the program is and whether or not they are eligible?
Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. I’m not in a position to know, frankly, what data is being collected, much less analyzed. It is still relatively new, but I can assure this chamber that all lessons from this program will be applied to future ones, and that information — I am sure — about the details of the rollout will be communicated well in advance of its implementation.