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Why I Don't See Eye to Eye with Dalton McGuinty


After an optometrist appointment in Etobicoke yesterday, I left with an unsettled feeling in my stomach.

Unlike 60 per cent of some lucky 'sunovaguns' who have private health insurance, I do not. I am a Toronto-based writer/editor who swings from contract to contract and cannot rely on the safety net provided only to full-time employees in the form of health benefits. As a relatively healthy 20something, it didn't really matter till November 1, 2004.

Ontario's premier Dalton McGuinty de-listed routine eye exams provided by optometrists and physicians for patients aged 20 to 64. Unfortunately for me, the genetic eye disease glaucoma runs in my family. Lucky for me once I turn 65 I can get new glasses, which is great since I spotted a timeless pair of frames downtown.

When I booked my optometrist appointment months ago, I asked about the new cost for a routine eye exam. "Ninety-five dollars," the assistant replied. Needless to say, my eyes bulged out behind my glasses. This may not sound like a lot of money but add this to other cuts users now pay for and things can get costly.

However, I knew I had to take charge of my health because glaucoma is hereditary. My mother has it so I have a higher risk of getting it than most.

Glaucoma is an abnormality caused by excess fluid pressure in the eye. Vision loss is slow, progressive and irreversible. Plus, symptoms aren't caught until the very late stages. (Some people inherit their mother's legs or ability to cook; I get a disease that could lead to blindness.)

Luckily, I can go in to check the health of my eyes for free if I opt out of getting a prescription.

To McGuinty's credit, the new regulation covers those with medical conditions including glaucoma and cataracts for one annual "major eye exam." The only other time an exam is free is if during the exam, the optometrist discovers a medical condition.

Although my optometrist says one of my eyes is worse the last time I saw him (six years ago) I passed the glaucoma test. Or failed it depending on one's perception.

This leaves me with many questions; I'll list three of them here.

Why cut coverage to save money when people may avoid getting an eye exam till something goes wrong? Won't that mean more costly problems later? With the recent Supreme Court decision in Quebec can anyone else see where Canada's health care is going?

Although I don't have 20/20 vision, I can.


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