A toothy proposition

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

November 27, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Following a survey by a group of nursing students, the issue of a sponsored dental plan for Western students has re-emerged.

A dental plan can be viewed as a luxury, but healthy teeth are important, and with the issue resurfacing frequently, it is clearly important to Western students.

An impressive 91 per cent of survey respondents are in favor of a dental plan. However, over 50 per cent of those would opt out of it.

According to the University Students’ Council, a dental plan would cost each student roughly $150 in its first year. While this appears inexpensive for dental coverage, the figure has the potential to expand dramatically.

If large numbers of students opt out of the plan, it will become fiscally impossible to manage.

Many students will opt out if they have the option. Most students come to university with an established dentist or dental coverage through their parents.

Unlike general health concerns, teeth can often wait until a student can arrange to see their regular dentist.

However, students could benefit from basic dental care in instances when they can’t easily make it back to their regular dentist.

Low-level care including basics such as checkups and emergency work would be suited to university students with busy lives. Additional work with increasing costs could be left to students to cover individually.

Basic care would provide students with help connecting to dental care in London. This would remove a significant hurdle for young, inexperienced students in a new city.

The university doesn’t owe students employer-style benefits.

It has a responsibility to help transition students from living with parents to a more independent lifestyle; aiding students in finding a dentist and providing low-level care would fulfill this responsibility.

The problem with a dental plan is it appears to be a worthwhile additional bit of health coverage for some, but not for all.

Many students would see such money better spent on coverage for eye care, the HPV vaccine or a number of other health-related issues currently beyond the funding of the USC Health Plan.

Nursing students have provided an interesting initial survey for the university and the USC, indicating dental care is on students’ minds.

Low-level dental care could connect students with dentists and fulfill basic health needs.

What is needed now is a comprehensive survey allowing students to choose between several health options. In addition, the survey needs to ask students if they would still support additional fees if they cannot opt out.

Coverage plans are only workable if large numbers opt in, so an opt-out clause would likely render a dental plan useless.

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