Yukoners can now apply for the publicly funded territory-wide dental program, which commenced on Jan. 4.
The Yukon government announced the launch of the program in a joint release with the Yukon NDP on opening day. The program will provide $1,300 per year in dental benefits for up to 8,000 Yukoners without dental coverage, making it the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer a broad level of coverage.
Clients won’t have to pay upfront until they have reached their annual limit, the government says.
In the release, the program covers the cost of dental treatments required to alleviate pain and infection, prevent disease, treat cavities and restore chewing and social function. On the Yukon government’s website, it includes cleanings, dental exams, fillings, X-rays, getting teeth pulled and, in some cases, dentures.
“Dental care should be accessible to all Yukoners and the new Yukon Dental Program will improve the lives of many Yukoners by providing them with the care they need when they need it,” Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee said in the release.
“This program will help close a gap in service and is an example of our deep commitment to improving health outcomes and reducing inequities.”
The program was a recommendation in the Putting People First report, which is the Yukon government’s roadmap on transforming the health-care system.
Pacific Blue Cross will administer the Yukon’s program. The territorial government is putting $1.8 million towards the program in 2022-23.
Not all Yukoners will be eligible for the program. The release outlines application rules.
In the release, the applicant’s gross income must be $60,000 or less for individuals and $90,000 or less for individuals with two children. The income threshold increases with family size.
The release indicates the applicant must be enrolled in the Yukon Health Care Insurance Plan and not be eligible for dental coverage under any other insurance program, plan or group.
Yukoners who are eligible for the Pharmacare and Extended Health-Care Benefits programs, and who apply and meet the income threshold, could get a top-up of $600 annually, according to the release.
Children are eligible if their caregivers meet the income threshold and they are not eligible for the Yukon children’s dental program.
A Yukon-wide dental plan is a stipulation in the territorial Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement (CASA). That agreement expires on Jan. 31 and it remains unknown if it will be renewed.
“We’re excited to see this program finally roll out,” Yukon NDP Leader Kate White said in the release.
“The NDP has always believed that dental care is healthcare — and it should be accessible for everyone. We’ve supported Yukoners from all walks of life to be able to access the dental care they’ve needed and it’s due in large part to the tenacity of these folks that this program is now in place.”
The program comes a month after applications began for a separate federal children’s dental program that offers up to $650 for children younger than 12 in families that earn less than $90,000 a year.
The federal NDP pushed for dental care and sick-day policies as part of an agreement to support the minority Liberals on major legislation and confidence votes until 2025.
The territorial official Opposition said in a Jan. 4 release it is hopeful that increasing access to dental care will help the overall health-care system in the long run.
In the Yukon Legislative Assembly on Nov. 24, Yukon Party Health and Social Services critic Brad Cathers raised some questions and unintended consequences regarding what employers should do about their plans and how the territorial program will jive with the federal government’s recently launched program.
“As I noted during the fall sitting of the legislative assembly, companies who currently cover their employees with dental benefits are wondering if they can or should remove those benefits, if those will now be covered by the government,” Cathers said in the release.
“In addition, employees may want to opt out of their dental plan if the government benefit offers better coverage. There are also questions about how the Yukon Dental Program will operate with the Canada Dental Benefit.”
In the release, Cathers also questioned the timing of the program’s launch.
“This is another example of a warped version of a CASA commitment being delivered late by this government and calls into question how long the NDP will tolerate this continued slow action by the Liberals,” he said.
The Yukon government’s release directs Yukoners to apply at Yukon.ca/dentalprogram and to learn more by visiting the website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 867-667-5209.
Proof of income will be needed to apply.
— With files from Ashley Joannou of The Canadian Press
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com