Not much to smile about in Ontario dental plan, Ottawa dentist says
More than 4 million people stand to benefit from the plan, if not covered through work or programs
An Ottawa dentist has spotted plenty of gaps in plans by Ontario Liberals to win over smiling voters with dental and drug benefits as part of their 2018 budget.
Dr. Jonathan Mayer, a former director of the Ottawa Hospital Dental Clinic who is now in private practice, said the plan is "inadequate" for children.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Charles Sousa unveiled a benefits plan that would provide coverage for people who don't have access to insurance through work.
An individual would pay up-front for their eligible expense, and the program would reimburse up to 80 per cent of the cost to a yearly maximum of:
- $400 for singles.
- $600 for couples.
- $50 for each child in a family.
Families could also, for example, choose to pool their money and determine how best to allocate it if one family member needs more extensive work.
The coverage limit for a single person may be able to cover routine dental work on the normal fee schedule, but not much else, Mayer said.
"That would basically cover an exam and cleaning and maybe a filling once a year or a couple of exams and cleanings a year," Mayer said. "Not really anything else. It's definitely not what you'd consider comprehensive."
'Almost no coverage'
As for the amount for children, it would hardly take a bite out of dental bills.
"It's almost no coverage in reality. Saying $50 a child per year, it's almost token. I don't know why they even bother at this point," Mayer said.
The money budgeted for children's dental care could be better used to improve existing programs that provide coverage for people under the age of 18, such as Healthy Smiles Ontario, he said.
Ontario social assistance covers some basic dental work, but pays well below private insurance rates, which has led many dentists to stop taking clients from the program, Mayer said. He would like to see that issue addressed.
Move follows NDP universal dental plan pledge
Premier Kathleen Wynne's promise for dental coverage came out in her government's throne speech ahead of the budget and followed an NDP pledge to provide a universal dental plan for Ontarians if they're elected in June.
On Wednesday, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slammed the Liberal program as "meagre," saying it didn't go far enough and that it was more about "hype and headlines" than "substantive change."
The NDP's "Ontario Benefits" plan was costed at $1.2 billion when it was first announced.
Ontario Progressive Conservative party leader Doug Ford didn't comment on the health benefits plan directly but reiterated claims he made in the days leading up to the budget, saying Wynne's "cheques are going to bounce."