Dental plan back on the agenda: Brits rejoice

Political action project aims to add pearly white protection to health plan

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Dental care to keep those pearly whites healthy might be covered under the USC health plan.

If you are an undergraduate student at Western and you actually check your Western email, you would have recently read a message about adding dental coverage to your health plan.

Fourth-year nursing students Laura Jennings, Barb Hamilton, Danielle Murphy and Audrey Sanusi set up the survey asking students if they are in favour of a dental plan as part of their political action project.

The proposed plan would add an extra $100 to $150 to undergraduate student fees and only allow those with existing dental coverage to opt-out.

Murphy said 91 per cent of 2,300 votes have been in favour of having the dental plan, but 52 per cent of those people would [Editor's Note: not] opt out.

“I realize Western’s population is very large. But I was very impressed with the results,” Murphy said.

While the University Students’ Council was not involved in the production of the poll, David Singh, VP-finance for the USC, said it is an issue that has been discussed before.

“It’s a question that comes up every year,” Singh said.

The question has been put to referendum twice in Western’s history: first in 1997 and next in 2003, but neither was successful. The USC’s campus-wide survey in 2004 showed 44 per cent of students were in favour of a dental plan.

Murphy said a health plan that covered dental costs would encourage better oral hygiene.

“If it’s available to [students], I think they would be inclined to use it,” she added.

“Students don’t have a lot of extra money. If you have $150, you’re not going to go get your teeth cleaned.”

A similar plan is in place at Fanshawe College. It is the first year of dental coverage; all full-time students now pay an extra $71 in student fees, except those who can prove they are already covered.

Travis Mazereeuw, president of the Fanshawe Student Union, said last year’s referendum results showed a large majority of students were in favour of a dental plan.

“I haven’t really had any serious complaints about it this year at all,” he said.

Singh warned a dental plan is not necessarily as financially feasible as it may seem. With a medical plan a lot of students pay into it, and only those that get sick draw from it; on the other hand more students would be likely to use the dental plan.

“The assumption with the health plan is that the majority of students are healthy. It’s there when students need it ... for a rainy day.

“The cost that we would generate in revenue theoretically would not cover the cost that we would have expensed.”

Schools like Fanshawe can afford to cover dental bills for students since it does not advertise the plan as much as the USC would feel necessary, Singh said.

If fewer students know about the plan, fewer use it, making it easier to cover those that do.

Pam Lupu, a first-year social science student, would opt out of the dental plan if it were offered, since she already has dental coverage.

But Jason Chan, a third-year science student who recently paid out of pocket to have his wisdom teeth removed, thinks it is a good idea. “I would definitely go for it.”

Depending on student interest, council could vote on dental coverage early next semester.

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