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homeopathy, snake oil

University of Toronto adds homeopathy to health benefits, dilutes care

While universal health care in Canada covers doctors fees and hospital stays a lot of care is fee for service. Out of pocket costs can add up for dental care, prescriptions, mental health care, glasses/contacts, and in some provinces (like Ontario, home of the University of Toronto) physical
therapy. Many places of employment offer supplemental health plans in their benefit packages to help defray these costs.

The University of Toronto, like many employers, offers such a supplemental plan. This year (2015-2016) they ADDED homeopathy.

A screenshot from the 2015-206 explanation of benefits…

uofthealthplan

Apparently homeopathy has been on the graduate student plan for at least a couple of years. This fact was discussed at a student council meeting back in 2013

Jessica reminded council members about students receiving an email from GSU in response to concerns about our current health coverage’s inclusion of homeopathy. No one on GSU’s executive wants to continue funding homeopathy; however, the staff member running this program likes homeopathy. Jessica described the “magic water” treatment to council members, pointing out that it is unsafe and that our tuition is funding it. If GSU reallocated the funds currently allocated to homeopathy, students would be able to get coverage for physiotherapy at $20 per session.

It is hard to reconcile homeopathy being covered (never mind being mentioned in the same sentence as physiotherapy and occupational therapy) at a place of employment with a medical school and Department of Physics. As for the staff member liking homeopathy? Health plans aren’t Facebook fan pages. What if the staff member wanted cosmetic Botox covered and decided to dump silly old pain medication in labor!

Then again this is the University of Toronto, the school that is…

By including homeopathy via employee and student health plans the University of Toronto is legitimizing the practice and contributing to its growth. It is entirely possible that employees and students might look at their plans and think, “Homeopathy, I’ve never tried that before let me give it a ago” leading to real harm never mind the waste of money.

Then again, the University is leasing space to the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine who get to advertise that they are “in the University of Toronto.” Yes, I know they don’t say they are part of the University, but unless you read it carefully it would be easy to assume the University of Toronto and the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine are connected by more than just rent.

homeopathy

I understand that Universities have empty buildings and budget issues, but who you choose to take money from matters. If the tobacco lobby wanted to rent space at the U of T would they clear a broom closet out if they could get some cash?

Each one of these instances is troubling, but stepping back a pattern of more than tolerance emerges. When you put homeopathy on your health plan, when you teach it, when you share a roof with it. and when you study it you have legitimized it and, intentional or not, are promoting it. Whether this pattern will continue now that the Dean of the Scarborough campus has resigned remains to be seen.

Discussion

8 thoughts on “University of Toronto adds homeopathy to health benefits, dilutes care

  1. This is crazy. Thanks for keeping us informed of this kind of thing. People need to know.

    Posted by Sukie | August 3, 2015, 11:00 am
  2. For what it is worth, I believe that those “benefits” are only for Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members and possibly other unionized staff, not University of Toronto faculty. That is embarrassing enough, but as far as I am aware, the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) has declined to ask for such embarrassing “benefits” for its members, and I hope will refuse them if offered in the current negotiations. As a member of UTFA Council, I would certainly vote against against any agreement offering such benefits.

    Posted by David Bailey | August 6, 2015, 10:00 pm
  3. Why is it that it seems like there is barely an outcry from many Canadians over pseudoscience such as homeopathy, naturaopathy, acupuncture, etc? You have fairly strong movements in places like the US and Australia but Canadians tend to mostly just shrug it off. I’m trying to be quite vocal on FB but that only encompasses a small circle of friends and family. We need some sort of vocal national organization or I fear Canada will slowly become some sort of North American Mecca of Woo without anyone even realizing it has until it is too late.

    Posted by JermChu | August 12, 2015, 5:41 pm
  4. I am the chief negotiator and VP Salary, Benefits, Pensions for the University of Toronto Faculty Association. Jen Guntner should be ashamed of herself for spreading false facts about the University of Toronto Faculty Association and its bargaining platform. We are not asking for homeopathy to be added to our benefits. Is that clear enough? We rejected this possibility after surveying our members on all the possible treatments that might be added to our benefits package. Moreover, neither I not anyone else was consulted for the Times article on this issue which seems to have sprung entirely from the blog of this self-proclaimed lasso-wielding cowboy of truth. If Ms. Guntner has any integrity, she will contact the Times and request a retraction and a correction.

    Posted by Paul Downes | September 1, 2015, 6:54 am
    • Mr. Downes,

      First mistake in your comment is the spelling of my name, it’s Gunter.

      Second mistake – I don’t believe I mentioned faculty benefits, I wrote employees, graduate students, and health plan. I linked to the data or provided screen shots to support that. I felt that was clear enough. However, see the next paragraph.

      Third mistake – this is a blog. I do my very best for due diligence. Hence the links and the quotes etc etc. But bloggers are not reporters and as this is an entirely unpaid labor of love I don’t have a budget to reach out to everyone. As there was a link to the health plan information and the graduate students comments were freely available to be quoted I didn’t think I needed clarification. Also, read the comments section before you post to make sure someone else hasn’t addressed your issue. Another person clarified that faculty wasn’t involved (2nd comment). And that’s a wonderful thing about blogs, that people who are invested in what you have to say take the time to comment and make the piece even better.

      Number four, if you have an issue with how someone else interpreted what I wrote for heavens sake take it up with them. I wasn’t interviewed for the Times piece. If I were I would have said CUPE and graduate students .

      Finally, and this is very important. So important that I might one day address it in a post. There are employees and faculty and students at the University of Toronto who are VERY UPSET with the variety of links that have popped up between your institution and homeopathy – research, a course, renting space, and some health plans (notice I didn’t say the faculty plan, just SOME health plans) adding it as a benefit. Perhaps you should ask yourself why they feel the need to anonymously pass me information? Could it be that they are afraid to speak up or perhaps they have and no one has listened?

      I am so glad to hear that homeopathy won’t be on the faculty benefits, but the fact that it is on any benefits at a University lends it support as some kind of justifiable practice when it is snake oil. Maybe you can chat with the folks who govern the plans that do cover homeopathy and suggest that their money might be better spent adding more coverage for physical therapy as I understand physical therapy for conditions like low back pain and pelvic pain isn’t covered by OHIP if you are between the ages of 18 and 65.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | September 1, 2015, 11:17 am
  5. I realize that Dr Guntner did not specifically mention the faculty at the University of Toronto in her blogpost, but this is how the story is being received by her readers and by the media (see the Times Higher Education Supplement story linking to her blog). I wish to point out, and would like Dr Guntner to clarify, that the faculty and librarians at the University of Toronto (represented by UTFA) are NOT looking to add homeopathy to the list of covered procedures in our benefits package.

    Posted by Paul Downes | September 1, 2015, 10:13 am
  6. Speaking of Botox, Dr. Gunter, are you personally able to inject Botox into the MALE pelvic floor?

    Posted by Chris Stuart | December 27, 2015, 9:47 am

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