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EDITORIAL: Health care on the table

Ari Oba, 10, shows off his teeth to dentistry hygenist student Boyd Roul at the Dal dentristy clinic at Harbourview Elementary in Dartmouth, Friday. TIM KROCHAK • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Dentistry hygienist student Boyd Roul checks 10-year-old Ari Oba’s teeth at Harbourview Elementary in Dartmouth. — SaltWire Network file photo

Expanded medicare deserves to be a key election issue

This is an editorial about an election, ours, and well, theirs.

In our current federal election, the candidates are talking about pharmacare and dental care, two potential add-ons to the current Canadian medicare system.

The reasons are obvious: the staggering costs of some treatments for families and individuals, and the ability of a single-payer federal system to wrest price cuts from pharmaceutical companies.

Both the NDP and Liberals are pushing for pharmacare (the Liberals by 2022, the NDP by 2020), though the NDP points out that the Liberals have had four years and a majority government and have failed to deliver. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have argued that the vast majority of Canadians are already covered either by private insurance or provincial drug plans.

The NDP, by the way, also want government-paid dental care for households earning less than $70,000 a year.

In our current federal election, the candidates are talking about pharmacare and dental care, two potential add-ons to the current Canadian medicare system.

South of the border, medical costs are also a potential election issue. There, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is promising to bring in medicare, and to get rid of the staggering amount of medical debt that American voters are carrying. In all, 79 million Americans are in debt as a result of borrowing to pay for medical treatment — that debt has now reached a total of US$81 billion, or $107 billion Canadian.

Here’s a snippet from Sander’s campaign literature: “In the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, one illness or disease should not ruin a family’s financial life and future. In America today, it is unacceptable that one out of every six Americans have past-due medical bills on their credit report … The largest share of that medical debt is held by 27-year-olds who lose access to their parents’ insurance after age 26. Today, 25 per cent of 24 to 55-year-olds throughout the country have outstanding medical debt.”

One out of every four Americans says they have skipped getting medical care because of the cost.

Those are staggering numbers — and they are numbers that we don’t have to worry about here.

So why raise it?

Perhaps to make a point that all manner of demands can crush you when you have no choice. If it’s a new mortgage or not getting medical care for a family member, the choice is simple.

When you’re dealing with doctors, you shouldn’t have to be worrying about the banks and your house as well.

Politicians don’t always deliver. In fact, it’s gotten bad enough that you can say that politicians often don’t deliver.

But if you look at the difference between medical costs in the U.S., and in Canada, there’s plainly at least an argument to be made about adding dental care and pharmacare to government-paid medical services.

You can even say individual Canadians and their families can’t afford not to at least have the debate.

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