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B.C. open to public coverage of dental care, but not without federal funding: finance minister

The B.C. government says it is interested in looking at public support for dental care, but that it would need federal help to fund the program.
The B.C. government says it is interested in looking at public support for dental care, but that it would need federal help to fund the program. AFP FILE/PHILIPPE HUGUEN

The B.C. government is intrigued by the idea of rolling dental care into the health care system but insists the federal government would need to substantial help with funding.

Finance Minister Carole James says the province has been looking at the idea but does not have the financial capacity to do it alone.

“I certainly think it’s area we should look at across the country, with support,” James said.

“It’s tough to take on as an individual province, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t be talking about this as part of the national conversation.”

READ MORE: NDP’s Singh vows to cover dental care for families earning less than $70K

NDP members supported a resolution over the weekend at the party’s convention to support dental care being rolled into provincial health coverage.

The idea has grown in popularity in recent years.

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Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh promised an NDP government would extend full public dental coverage to households making less than $70,000 a year. The plan would also include partial coverage for households with incomes between $70,000 and $90,000.

The Ontario NDP unveiled a campaign promise in March in to extend dental care to people in the country’s most populated province without insurance coverage.

WATCH (aired December 13, 2018): Dental coverage could be in next NDP budget: Horgan

Dental coverage could be in next NDP budget: Horgan
Dental coverage could be in next NDP budget: Horgan

The NDP estimated the plan would provide dental benefits to 4.5 million Ontarians at a cost of $1.2 billion.

“It’s a very high cost. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get started. It takes some programs 10 years to implement. I certainly believe the federal government would have to be at the table,” James said.

British Columbia’s Medical Service Plan (MSP) premiums currently cover medically necessary services provided by physicians and midwives, dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital, eye examinations that are medically required and some orthodontic services.

READ MORE: Premier John Horgan opens door to including dental coverage within B.C.’s health care system

Last December, Premier John Horgan said he was open to the idea of expanding dental coverage. The province has invested in the Healthy Kids program aimed at dental support for children.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province has also dramatically reduced wait times for those in pain waiting for dental work.

WATCH (aired March 19, 2018): Vulnerable B.C. children will have quicker access to dental surgery

Vulnerable B.C. children will have quicker access to dental surgery
Vulnerable B.C. children will have quicker access to dental surgery

“It is something we are open to but currently the health care system has a $20 billion budget and we have to act within that budget and set priorities within that budget,” Dix said.

“We have first tried to expand access to those people who today don’t have enough access.”