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Retired Teachers invited to participate in the Canada Dental Care Program may face financial penalties if they join. Here’s why.

Canada Dental Care Plan Rollout Creates Confusion and Hazards for Retired Teachers

The recent introduction of the Canada Dental Care Program (CDCP) raised a lot of expectations amongst Canadian retirees. With recent hikes to dentists’ fee schedules and no employer-sponsored coverage, seniors of all income levels find that taking care of their teeth gets very expensive. But sometimes expectations are not met. In a recent Connections, we shared with you the fact that retired teachers in BC were not, in fact, eligible to participate in CDCP, due to their relationship with the Teachers’ Pension Plan, which has a dental plan on offer.

Both the Teachers’ Pension Plan and BCRTA have expressed concerns about the way eligibility is determined. A review of the eligibility criteria reveals that if a person is offered any dental plan they are not eligible for the CDCP. This is a bit of a head-scratcher, because the Green Shield dental plan offered to retired teachers in BC has no employer subsidy; retirees pay 100% of the premiums. Are they receiving a financial benefit by signing up? No, they pay their own way.

“The CDCP is supposed to help those who most need dental care, and yet the retired teachers with very small pensions, who couldn’t afford a dental plan at retirement, do not have access to this program,” commented BCRTA President Arnie Lambert.

To make things more confusing, some switchboard operators at Service Canada have been mistakenly allowing retired BC teachers to sign up, even as the managers of the CDCP have released a series of clarifying comments which have further locked down access. The rules were amended to accept individuals who opted out of a dental plan before Dec. 11, 2023. But, as ACER-CART President Bill Berryman recently noted, equally needy individuals that didn’t know about this arbitrarily and retroactively imposed date are not eligible, and never will be.

BC retirees are confused by these events, because many have received letters from the government that indicate that they should apply. The program is open to seniors with a household income below $90,000. Naturally, many have responded to the invitation.


BCRTA committees studying the many problems of this program are, somewhat ironically, most concerned about those few retired teachers who did manage to sign up. A new regulation from Revenue Canada will require the TPP to mark on all retirees’ T4A slips for 2024 a code which will indicate that they are able to join the TPP dental plan. This will highlight those individuals to Revenue Canada as ineligible for the CDCP. Once identified as ineligible, CDCP coverage is likely to be terminated. For those who left the Green Shield dental plan this will be a particularly sticky problem – Green Shield will not take them back. Further, the government may find that these individuals have inappropriately taken the CDCP benefits the previous year and demand repayment of those funds, perhaps with penalties.

So our advice to retirees is to beware of signing up where you will eventually be deemed ineligible. You may inadvertently set yourself up for a frustrating financial reversal and be orphaned from your dental plan.

BCRTA President Arnie Lambert has written to senior government ministers expressing our concerns about this convoluted and, we believe, unfair policy.


As a side note, we should review a couple of facts about dental plans. Because the insurance aspect of a dental plan doesn’t really cover you from catastrophic events, like life insurance does, a dental plan is more of a budgeting tool and convenience. Our retirement workshop team always advise retirees that you are likely to break even or come out ahead by self-funding your dental expenses. Having said that, we find that people may hesitate to spend money at every visit when self funding, while having paid into a dental plan might encourage us to go use it. Whatever route you choose, take care of your teeth! It is an important element of your overall health.

We should also remind you that BCRTA offers a highly rated dental plan through our partner Johnson Insurance. Details of our plan, and comparisons with the Green Shield plan, are available from our office:


Finally, all the foregoing may be a moot point for seniors in many communities, because the CDCP has also had difficulty getting acceptance amongst dentists. Benefits and Pensions Monitor reported that a recent survey revealed that 61 percent of dentists were hesitant to join the program, according to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). Apparently the CDCP proposes compensation for dentists that is often lower than their established rates. So it may be that your preferred dentist is not participating in the program anyway.

BCRTA will continue to monitor the situation with this program and advocate for fair treatment for our members.