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Canada government to launch dental plan agreed in deal to stay in power

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits dental school in London

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will launch a C$13 billion ($9.6 billion) dental care plan for uninsured Canadians this month, the government said Monday, fulfilling a cornerstone of a deal with an opposition party to keep Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority government in power.

The Canadian Dental Care Plan will start taking applications from people aged 87 and older this month before it is gradually rolled out to other age groups next year, with full coverage expected in 2025, the Liberal government said in a statement.

The plan will be open to Canadians with an annual family income of less than C$90,000 who do not have dental insurance. Coverage under the plan is expected to begin in May, starting with seniors.

In 2022, the Liberal government struck a deal with the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) under which the left-leaning party agreed to prop up Trudeau's minority government till 2025. One of NDP's key demands was the roll out of a dental care plan for lower-income residents.

Trudeau's government announced an investment of C$13 billion over five years for the program in the March federal budget, which would supplement a dental care plan launched in 2022 for uninsured children under 12.

The national dental care plan "will significantly improve health outcomes, reduce a burden on our health care system, and build a foundation of equity by expanding access to oral health care for the millions of Canadians that currently do not have access to this critical care," Health Minister Mark Holland said in the statement.

The NDP has backed Trudeau's Liberals in key parliamentary votes since 2019.

($1 = 1.3567 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa, editing by Deepa Babington)