NZ Labour embraces subsidies for dentistry

Primary dental care for adults may be subsidised in New Zealand — if the money's there.

Two weeks out from an election, the New Zealand Labour party has announced a dental policy that involves subsidising primary dental care for adults if the party takes government. There is, however, a catch. Labour’s health spokesman, Grant Robertson, acknowledged that the promise to extend subsidised dental care incrementally “as resources allow” was a soft commitment.

It builds on the already-announced plan to provide free dental care to pregnant women. That would be the second dental priority; the first would be to increase uptake by adolescents of free dental care. Uptake in Auckland has been increasing and stands at around 65 per cent, against a 2013 national Ministry of Health target of 85 per cent.

“It’s an honest caveat that at the moment the resources are not there to do this quickly, but this is a 10-year plan and we’re saying it’s a priority for Labour,” Mr Robertson said. “Not free, just like going to the GP isn’t free [for most], but a recognition that we are going to reduce the costs.”

Dental Association president Dr Geoff Lingard said, “We support access for care and if that access can be subsidised in a way that would benefit both the patient and the dental practices, then that could be a good thing for New Zealanders.”


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