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.
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…
- Running a study on homeopathy for ADHD (how that got past the IRB still boggles my mind)
- Hired a homeopath (the wife of the Dean of the Scarborough campus) to teach a health course
- Ignored faculty complaints about the abuse of physics in said course
- Barely responded to the anti-vaccine teachings (the Vice Provost’s office called it balanced) and then buried their white wash of a response
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.
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.