A long way from ‘universal’ health care

Families under a low-income threshold can apply for the Canada Dental Benefit. (File photo)

As you’ll read in this week’s issue, the application deadline for the interim Canada Dental Benefit is approaching. This recent federal program aims to ease dental expenses for qualifying families with an annual income of less than $90,000. Parents or guardians who pay for dental care for children under 12 without access to private or employee dental insurance benefits could be eligible for up to two payments of $260, $390 or $650 per eligible child.

Canadians like to tout our “universal” health care, but as the need for this program illustrates, it’s not universal at all. If you’ve ever required an unexpected dental procedure, hearing aids, ongoing physiotherapy or eye care, you know that even if you have private health insurance, you’re facing bills that quickly add up.

And if you’re among the millions of Canadians with no private insurance, these needs can force you into real dilemmas.

Hearing aids are a particularly heartbreaking example. They’re an easy and proven way to improve quality of life for the many people with hearing disabilities, keeping them productive members of society. But the makers charge thousands for them and insurance and government programs do little to allay the staggering expense.

So, lots of people who need hearing aids, and would benefit enormously from them, go without. And as hearing fades, they’re unable to engage with the world around them, forcing them out of the workforce and social groups, often leading to depression and mental health issues.

It’s the most egregious example of how American-style profiteering has infiltrated our ostensibly health-care system.

We welcome the Canada Dental Benefit, but remind politicians and policymakers of all stripes that we are still a long way from the unrealized promise of universal health care, and continuing to work towards it is a powerful, meaningful way to make life better for all citizens.

The Saint Croix Courier