The Government has more than tripled dental grant payments for low-income families from $300 to $1000 as part of this year’s Budget.
Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said the increase was a delivery on the Government’s promise to do so when elected in 2020.
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“Many low-income New Zealanders find it difficult to afford immediate and essential dental care, and increasing the level of the grant will ensure more people can receive the urgent help they need,” Sepuloni said.
“Low-income people who are eligible will see the amount available more than trebled, and the dental work no longer needs to be for emergencies only.
The payment will also no longer be required for emergency work only.
Paediatric dentist Dr Katie Ayers from the New Zealand Dental Association said they were “thrilled” the Government had increased the payments.
“It’s a good step and we have been needing this for almost 25 years. It’s high time that it was improved,” Dr Ayers said.
“We’re seeing hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who simply cannot afford to get basic dental care done because there’s no subsidy available so this will enable people to at least get their pain and infection relieved.
“Hopefully this is step one of what’s going to follow over the next few years.”
Despite the large increase, some do not believe it is enough.
Former director of the Association of Salary Medical Specialists Ian Powell said the Government could have increased the grant further.
“Increasing it from $300 to $1000 sounds like a lot but it’s been $300 for about 25 years. I certainly would have done more there.”
Brooke Stanley Pao from Auckland Action Against Poverty said the increase “didn’t address the preventative measures of health that they could’ve invested in”.
“They could’ve come through with free dental. We expect more and they should’ve done more.”
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Elsewhere, Health NZ received $3.1b over two years, in what Finance Minister Grant Robertson described as the “largest investment ever in our health system”.
It is set to cover financial deficits left behind by DHBs, which have run deficits in almost all years since 2008, “improvements” to health services as the system moves to nationwide planning and planning for an ageing population.