A territory-wide dental plan is slated to ring in the new year.
In response to a Yukon Party question on the matter, Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee announced in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on Nov. 15 that the new dental plan will start Jan. 1, 2023.
That’s when the program will begin taking applicants.
“We are excited that this program will mean that there’s full coverage for individuals here in the territory for dental services,” McPhee told reporters in the cabinet office following question period.
“We’re working on the policies and some procedures to make sure that the program is completely set up.”
It will roll out alongside existing programs offered through the Department of Health and Social Services and the interim Canada dental benefit, which is a federal commitment to deliver dental coverage for uninsured Canadians with a family income of less than $90,000 annually, starting with children under 12 years old, according to a backgrounder from the Department of Finance Canada.
“This will fill in the gaps,” McPhee said.
Eligibility will be laid out in a benefit guide that will be available when the plan launches, she said. Individuals who currently get dental care through social assistance will be notified that they are eligible for this program.
McPhee was unable to put a number on how many Yukoners will be eligible and how many could be helped as a result of the program.
In an email statement on Nov. 17, Cameron Heke, communications analyst for the department, said the dental plan will apply to an estimated 8,000 Yukoners. It will co-exist with the children’s dental program, social assistance aid for health care services and extended health care benefits for seniors.
“The Yukon dental program will support prevention that reduces costly interventions and improves Yukoners’ health,” he said.
The plan will run on a payer-of-last-resort model. It will not apply to Yukoners who already have insurance or are eligible for any of the other dental programs.
McPhee said a company has been hired to administer the plan, which is getting a $1.8-million injection from the territorial government this fiscal year.
A Yukon-wide dental plan is a stipulation in the territorial Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement. That agreement expires on Jan. 31 and it remains unknown if it will be renewed.
NDP Leader Kate White expressed disappointment that the Yukon government didn’t launch the dental program sooner.
“The second uninsured Yukoners and people who aren’t in those programs can actually access dental service will be a game changer for people here,” she said.
White said the dental plan was one of the items the NDP negotiated the hardest on and one of the big reasons why the confidence and supply agreement was signed in the first place.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org