B.C. Premier John Horgan is not opposed to the idea of the province covering dental care as part of the provincial health care system.
Horgan was asked about the issue as part of a year-end interview with Global News.
“We have been looking at it and hopefully we will be able to do something about it in the next budget,” Horgan said.
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The Ontario NDP unveiled a campaign promise in March in to extend dental care to people in the country’s most populated province without insurance coverage.
The NDP estimated the plan would provide dental benefits to 4.5 million Ontarians at a cost of $1.2 billion.
The plan would cover basic procedures such as dentures, exams, X-rays, fillings, cleanings and restorative work.
“It would take pressure off of our doctors’ offices, and off of our hospitals, where people are now forced to go when they’re in absolute crisis when it comes to their mouth and their oral health and their dental needs,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said during the election campaign.
Horwath is now the leader of the official opposition, losing to current Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Under the plan, public cash would cover care for seniors without insurance and those on social assistance.
For employers, the NDP would make offering a minimum standard of dental coverage mandatory, including for part-time and contract workers.
British Columbia’s Medical Service Plan (MSP) premiums currently cover medically necessary services provided by physicians and midwives, dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital, eye examinations that are medically required and some orthodontic services.
Horgan said that his own experience has made it clear to him how important dental services are.
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“I got my two front teeth knocked out playing basketball when I was a kid and it meant that I was always tentative about smiling. Dental care, dental health is critically important to physical well-being as well as mental well-being,” Horgan said.
“I believe it’s an area we need to move into with kids and get good habits with good oral hygiene and make sure that is funded.”
In 2008, the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) supported a motion to ask the province to take immediate steps to remove access barriers to dental health care, allocate more funding for basic dental health care insurance for low income individuals and families in the province, and work with the BC Dental Association to resolve the discrepancy between the BC Dental Fee guide and the actual fees charged by dentists.
In 2018, UBCM discussed requiring the Ministry of Health to add basic dental care to MSP coverage and to have B.C. mandate a provincial requirement for all public water source treatment to include fluoridation where naturally-occurring levels do not meet the minimum suggested level of 0.07mg/L.
- With files from Kerri Breen