The first stage of the Canada Dental Benefit officially became law Thursday night after Bill C-31 passed its final reading in the Senate and received royal assent from Governor General Mary Simon.
The benefit will provide dental care to 500,000 children under the age of 12 at a cost of close to $1 billion.
Earlier this year, the Liberals and New Democrats struck a deal committing the NDP to voting with the minority Liberal government in the House of Commons on confidence votes until June of 2025. In exchange, the government agreed to meet a number of policy benchmarks along the way.
That deal committed the government to the goal of expanding the dental program to include those under 18 by next year, and all Canadians who qualify by the end of 2025.
“With this benefit, children will be able to access the basic dental care they need, while we develop a long-term Canada-wide dental care program,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement.
‘Just the first step’
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Thursday that he plans to ensure the Liberals follow through on the rest of the deal.
“This is just the first step, we’re going to keep fighting to make sure all Canadians can access comprehensive dental care as part of our health-care system,” Singh said in a statement.
Children under 12 whose families earn less than $70,000 a year will be able to qualify for $650 per year in dental coverage for the next two years.
Children in families with incomes between $70,000 and $79,999 will be able to qualify for $390 per child per year for the next two years. Families with incomes between $80,000 and $89,999 can get $260 per child per year for the next two years.
Parents will be able to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) directly for the benefit, either through the CRA’s “My Account” or through a CRA contact centre.
The dental benefit is administered through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), so only parents who are registered CCB recipients for their households can apply for the benefit.
Officials speaking on background said the period of eligibility for expenses for the first year of the program runs from Oct. 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 for children who were under 12 as of Dec. 1, 2022. The second eligibility period runs from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024 for children under the age of 12 as of July 1, 2023.
Fines of up to $5,000
Parents who spend more than the maximum they are qualified to receive in the first year can apply for additional funds from the second year of the interim program, but will not receive more than the maximum they qualify for over the two years.
Children with private insurance will not qualify but children who receive coverage through provincial, territorial or other federal programs — such as the non-Insured Health Benefit, which provides eligible First Nations and Inuit people with coverage for a range of health benefits — will qualify.
In these cases, families can apply for funds to cover the portion of dental care not covered by other government programs. The benefit is also non taxable.
To get the benefit, parents and guardians have to attest that their child does not have access to private dental care coverage and that they will use the benefit to pay for dental services.
Applicants will have to prove that they have a child in the eligible age range and that the family income fits into the correct range. Parents are also required to provide CRA with their employer’s information.
People using the program also have to provide the CRA with the name of the dentist and the date of the appointment. They must retain their bills for the work done in case CRA asks them to verify that it took place.
Families that provide false information, can’t provide receipts or don’t use the money for dental care could face a maximum fine of $5,000, plus double the amount of dental benefit they received from the federal government.
The benefit is to cover the cost of a dentist’s services, which is defined in the legislation as: “services that a dentist, denturist or dental hygienist is lawfully entitled to provide, including oral surgery and diagnostic, preventative, restorative, endodontic, periodontal, prosthodontic and orthodontic services.”
The federal government says that it came up with the annual maximum claim amounts by calculating the cost of various dental services for children.
Once a person receives the benefit, they must use it to pay for dental services — but if the services in that year cost less than the total benefit amount, the recipient is not required to return what remains.