Editorial: Chew on this

As we get closer to the provincial election, some political parties are releasing parts of their election platforms. The Liberals and the NDP have made dental care for Ontarians a major part of their platforms.

The Liberals have proposed a plan which will see up to $400 per person, $600 per couple, and $50 per child reimbursed per year. The NDP plan will cover dental exams, cleanings, fillings, X-rays, preventative and minor restorative dental work. In addition, necessary denture fittings would be covered. The Liberal plan would be funded through an expansion of their OHIP+ system, paid from general revenue. The NDP’s plan would be paid for with an employee deduction of up to $4.35 per week, similar to Employment Insurance or Canada Pension Plan deductions.

So far, the Progressive Conservatives have been silent on any platform matters, other than criticizing the Liberal and NDP plans as being unaffordable.

Both plans have admirable goals, but both also have flaws. The Liberal plan does not provide any new access to dental care for low-income families. The NDP plan is much more expensive.

Dental care is expensive and many low-income families do not have the financial resources to lay out the money for even the most basic dental care. The Liberals’ plan expects families to put out money, which they do not have, in order to get 80 per cent back, capped at ridiculously low amounts.

A dental exam for a child, with X-rays and cleaning, runs approximately $150. Fillings can cost from $150 and up. Extractions start at about $100 per tooth. $50 per child per year, reimbursed, is not going to make dental care more accessible.

The NDP plan seems a better plan as it is more comprehensive and accomplishes the goal of making dental care more affordable and accessible to more Ontarians. But it is an expensive proposition, even with employee contributions.

What all parties should be discussing is the broader issue of overall health care. Should dental care and pharmaceutical coverage be considered part-and-parcel of an overall health strategy? We do have access to hospitals, and most people have family doctors. Are dental and prescription drugs the next additions to the system? Can we afford them? Can we afford not to have them?

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