EDMONTON — This morning, the federal government announced a major expansion of dental care coverage for Canadians to be rolled out over the coming months. Dental care is one of the priorities that was laid out in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the NDP and the governing Liberals, which included a timeline that called for seniors, folks living with disabilities and those under 18 to be covered under a dental insurance program to be announced by the end of this year.
“Dental care is health care. Yet, far too many Albertans have been left living in pain or forced to forego necessary dental procedures due to cost-related barriers to access and entrenched economic inequality,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “Today’s dental care expansion is great news for Albertans, especially while so many of us are struggling with affordability, and good news for our provincial health care system which will save money as more dental concerns are able to be addressed in dentists’ offices, instead of our Emergency Rooms and Operating Rooms.”
Public health care advocates like Friends of Medicare have been calling for dental care to be included as a publicly insured and publicly delivered service for decades. We were pleased to see the Federal government take the important first steps earlier this year, and are glad to see that they have fulfilled their commitments to timely expansion of the program today.
As of April 27, 2023, 33,390 kids under 12 in Alberta had already accessed dental care thanks to the interim Canada Dental Benefit. Today’s move to expand coverage to include seniors, folks living with disabilities, and those under 18, and to do so with a permanent insurance model, will mean hundreds of thousands more Albertans should soon have proper access to the dental care they need.
“The interim Canada Dental Benefit was life-changing news for Alberta children. It meant that over 33,000 Albertan kids were able to see a dentist, many for the first time,” said Gallaway. “The life-long health impacts of preventative dental care for these kids cannot be overestimated. Expanding the coverage to include hundreds of thousands more Albertans is fantastic news for public health care. The demand for, and success of, these programs is proof that all dental care should ultimately be covered as part of our universal Medicare system.”
The vast majority of children under 12 in Alberta who have accessed the interim Canada Dental Benefit live in constituencies represented by Conservative Members of Parliament. Alberta’s Conservatives MPs and their families all receive public dental coverage, yet they opposed the creation of the interim dental benefit for children without coverage, and have since opposed every move to expand dental care to those in need, including voting to oppose action just last week.
“Albertans need to remember that this historic expansion of dental care happened in spite of the vast majority of our province’s Members of Parliament, specifically Conservative Party members, voting against taking action on dental care,” said Gallaway. “Those MPs and their families have public dental care insurance paid for by taxpayers, yet oppose expanding coverage to Albertans in need. This hypocrisy is something they will have to explain to their constituents who will benefit greatly from this urgently-needed dental care program.”
Friends of Medicare continues to wait for the federal government to fulfill their CASA commitment to universal, single-payer Pharmacare, and encourages Albertans to take action to ensure it happens.