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Feds award $15 million contract to Sun Life to lay groundwork for dental care program

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OTTAWA -

The federal government has awarded a contract worth up to $15 million to lay the groundwork for a new national dental insurance plan.

The new plan, which was a key demand from the NDP as part of the its supply and confidence agreement with the governing Liberals, will replace the interim dental benefit for kids rolled out last year.

Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Health Minister Mark Holland announced Wednesdaythe first contract for the new program was awarded to Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada.

This initial contract is to cover setup costs while the final contract for the plan itself is negotiated. Initial costs include recruitment, technology and business planning.

The federal government says this interim agreement will allow for the "timely launch and successful operation" of the plan.

"The main contract is expected to be awarded in fall 2023, pending Government of Canada approval," a news release said.

In 2022 the Liberals delivered on a temporary dental benefit worth up to $650 for each child under 12, depending on family income. Last spring the government said 300,000 children had already received the benefit to help cover dental fees.

The NDP has pushed for dental care coverage for years and made it a deal breaker in negotiations with the Liberals in exchange for NDP support on key votes in the minority Parliament.

The new insurance program is expected to launch later this year with initial coverage for kids under the age of 18, people with disabilities and seniors.

The spring budget promised $13 billion over the next five years to implement the national dental care plan, which the federal government says will insure up to nine million people.

Families with net annual incomes below $90,000 will be covered by the plan, while those with incomes below $70,000 will have dental coverage with no co-pays.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 6, 2023.

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