Low-Income Children Could Lose Dental Care
Earlier this month, the Liberal government was forced to scramble to reverse a proposal that would’ve left thousands of children in low-income families without preventative dental health services. The proposed change would have slashed income-based eligibility in half, effectively leaving some 15,000 children in Toronto alone without access to dental services.

Fortunately, the proposal to conduct such massive cuts was reversed before it could do damage. Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ office issued this statement regarding the proposal, “Our government will ensure that no child will lose access to preventive dental services that they are currently eligible to receive.”

Hoskins’ spokesperson also said, “We were aware of what the NDP highlighted…so we are committed to ensuring that children of low-income families will not lose coverage.” As it stands now, public health clinics across the province are mandated to provide preventive dental care to children of low-income families.

What Would the Proposal Have Meant?

The proposal would have meant that only 80 of the 4,000 children that were seen under the program in northwestern Ontario last year would have remained eligible for dental services. These services include scaling, fluoride varnish, and fixing cavities.

NDP MPP France Gelinas was greatly distressed by the Liberal government’s proposal. She had this to say, “We believe that investing in preventative dental care saves tens of millions of dollars in health-care costs down the road. That’s why I am greatly distressed by the Liberal plan to eliminate preventative dental care from the Ontario public-health standard.”

The Scale of ‘Lost Access’

Some discord exists in the legislature as to how much this will actually affect low-income families in the province. Premier Kathleen Wynne cited the some 70,000 more kids from low-income families that now receive dental care through the $30 million Healthy Smiles program.

However, Dr. Melvin C. Hsu, Manager of Dental and Oral Health Services at Toronto Public Health, countered by informing the legislature that this increase was already taken into account when the Toronto Board of Public Health calculated that 15,600 children would lose access to dental services if the Liberal government’s proposal was passed.

“From our point of view we want to prevent disease and when you let disease progress it will cost much more and the health of the child suffers... and that means 15,000 children may be more vulnerable to oral disease,” Hsu said.

Getting it Right

Fortunately, strong opposition to reversing the proposal has not hindered the process, as opposition critics, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), public health officials, and families all feel strongly that the proposed change must be scrapped.

“If you leave someone without the ability to have dental work all of a sudden you are into an emergency department. That’s the most costly form of health care we can have. It’s absolutely ludicrous to lower those thresholds,” Tory MPP Bill Walker said.

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Posted by: DSR
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Tag: Dental
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