SUDBURY, Ont. -- An NDP government would extend full public dental coverage to households making less than $70,000 a year, leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday in a first step toward including dentistry in public health care for everyone.
The coverage would start in 2020 and would include partial coverage for households with incomes between $70,000 and $90,000, Singh said Wednesday morning at a training clinic for dental hygienists at a college in Sudbury, Ont.
"We know that dental care is essential for overall health," he said. "There are too many Canadians that cannot afford dental services."
The NDP says up to six million Canadians don't see a dentist each year because they can't afford to, and those people often end up in emergency rooms with much worse problems that could have been averted with routine preventive care. Those can include deep infections and severe pain.
Singh billed it as a pocketbook issue, aimed at alleviating people's worries about the important things they can't afford.
"We are in it for you, we are fighting for you, we are on your side," Singh said, repeating the NDP's campaign slogan.
The NDP say there's research showing that emergency-room dental coverage costs the public health system up to $155 million a year.
The parliamentary budget office estimates the first year of the party's plan would cost the government $560 million. The second year, as more people caught up on getting their teeth attended to, would cost just under $1.9 billion. In later years, the costs would be expected to stabilize between $825 million and $850 million.
The immediate move would be a federal insurance program, Singh said, which would sidestep complex negotiations with the provinces, which administer public health care.