Ontario's NDP outlines plans for full dental coverage

Ontario's NDP has unveiled the details of its $1.2-billion proposal to provide dental care coverage for everyone in the province should the party form a government after the June election. 

The plan has two distinct parts, one for workers and their families and another for seniors who are living without retiree benefits or are on social assistance. 

Called 'Ontario Benefits,' the first element of the proposal would include coverage for all workers in the province, regardless of if they are full-time, independent, contract or freelance. The NDP estimates it would cost the government $575 million per year to implement.

The second part of the plan is a $670 million investment to extend publicly-funded dental coverage to ensure all seniors have access to care.

Dental exams, cleanings, fillings, X-rays, preventative and minor restorative dental work and necessary denture fittings are all procedures that would be covered under the regime. 

Between Ontario Benefits and public dental coverage, a combined 4.5 million people would receive dental coverage through the programs, according to NDP background materials. The plan would be fully implemented by 2020.

Breaking down the cost

The party says the plan would be funded much in the same way as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan are today, with employers funding 75 per cent of the plan and employee contributions making up the rest.

The maximum Ontarians would have to pay for Ontario Benefits would be $4.33 a week.

Those making under $30,000 before taxes would get their Ontario Benefits contributions returned. The NDP says up to 46 per cent of the workforce would receive the refund.

Those making between $30,000 and $50,000 annually would also receive a refund, but it would be based on a sliding scale.

Also, those with existing dental benefits who earn under $50,000 would get an additional refund for the portion of their contributions that already meet the minimum standards.

Employers would be required to provide coverage that will meet or exceed the minimum standard and those who already meet the requirements — which the NDP says is two-thirds of businesses — will see no additional costs. The cost to the remaining businesses is estimated at one per cent of payroll.

Plans for vision care

The NDP says its goal for Ontario Benefits is to eventually include minimum standards for vision-care registered therapies and other services typically covered through workplace health benefit plans.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath first announced the plan for "Canada's first universal Pharmacare plan" at a campaign-style event in downtown Toronto on Saturday.

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