Since last December, low-income parents of children under 12 can receive up to $650 from the federal government to pay the dentist, without having to provide bills, which will certainly lead to abusive claims, says Director parliamentarian for the budget, who is concerned about the lack of verification measures.

Karine*, a mother of two living in the Rosemont district of Montreal, paid $70 for her 2-year-old son’s visit to the dentist in October 2022. She learned in December that she could receive the new Dental Benefit Canadian, and received $650 within days of applying.

“All they checked was that I had paid out of pocket, had no insurance, and made at least one appointment for my child,” he said. -She.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which administers the program, did not verify the amount of his invoice.

In fact, eligible parents can receive their benefit even before they have paid the dentist: all you need is an “expected date” for an appointment. The amount paid does not matter, since the benefit is paid in full.

Families with a net income of less than $70,000 are entitled to $650 per child, those earning less than $80,000 may receive $390, and those making less than $90,000 receive $260, for treatments provided after October 1, 2022.

Families will be able to claim the same amounts after July 1, 2023, for a maximum total of $1,300 per child for the year.

The benefit is available even in Quebec, where curative dental care for children under 10 is paid for by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) – however, preventive care, such as cleanings, is not covered .

Karine, who is widowed and on sick leave, is happy to have received the benefit in this period of inflation. She had already paid $400 in early 2022 for treatments for her son, not covered by RAMQ.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Yves Giroux, however, fears fraud, because the CRA has not planned systematic audits as part of the program.

“When we talk about ‘scheduled appointment date’, it allows people to request the benefit before receiving the services, which opens the door to a lot of abuse,” said Mr. Giroux in a telephone interview.

He cites the examples of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the wage subsidy, introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, to predict that there will be fraud. “It’s pretty clear that there will be benefits paid out unnecessarily, when it would have been simple to ask for the receipts. »

According to him, since each benefit paid represents a small sum, it would be surprising to see the CRA implement very strict checks.

So far, the CRA has approved 129,260 benefit claims, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said. The program is expected to cost $938 million and benefit 500,000 children nationwide.

As for verifications, parents are asked to keep their dental receipts for six years in case the CRA contacts them later. “Applicants deemed ineligible during the vetting processes will be required to refund the benefit received,” said Tammy Jarbeau of the Department of Health in an emailed response.

Why are sums paid that often exceed the cost of treatment, especially in Quebec, where RAMQ already provides coverage?

“The amount of the Canadian Dental Benefit is based on the average cost of basic oral care in Canada, including an initial exam, a series of x-rays, basic preventative care or a minor repair, such as a filling,” replies Ms. Jarbeau.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), a family should not receive more than the amount of their bill.

“There is a need to add more tags to protect taxpayers from possible abuse. We have observed that the government has not put in place the adequate guidelines during the pandemic and that taxpayers must now bear the bills of tens of billions of dollars in ineligible or suspicious financial assistance related to COVID-19,” observes Nicolas Gagnon, FCC director for Quebec.

The Ordre des dentistes du Québec believes that the Dental Benefit will greatly help less affluent families to take their children to the dentist, and therefore it should be easy to obtain.

“Several government programs are thus based on an honor system, where we rely on the good faith of providers. It is to be hoped that any conscientious parent will make proper use of this federal benefit in the best interest of their child’s health,” said Dr. Liliane Malczewski, President of the Order.