New Zealand’s dentists will be forced to work with ‘free dental insurance’
Posted September 09, 2018 14:50:17New Zealand’s dental association says it will no longer be able to cover dentists who work in remote areas, after the country’s Health Minister announced plans to introduce free dental insurance for dentists working in rural and remote areas.
New Zealand has been one of the few countries in the developed world to offer dental insurance, with dental insurers covering up to 80 per cent of the cost of services in rural areas, where the rate of population growth is particularly high.
But the scheme was dropped in April when the government proposed a one-off tax to cover the costs of dental insurance.
In April, the Department of Health released a draft draft budget for the next financial year, which included a $1.5 billion boost for dental insurance to $30 million.
But New Zealand was forced to scrap the plans when it was revealed in April that dental insurers had been forced to pay out $8 million of dental claims in 2015 and $2 million in 2016.
Dentists say the new dental insurance is not enough to cover dental services in remote communities, where a shortage of resources is a major barrier to accessing care.
The move comes as the Government announces a major expansion of a dental health network, with hospitals and community dental health clinics to be established to provide dental care to remote communities.
But it comes with a catch.
Dr Rosemary O’Connor, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago’s Department of Dentistry and Public Health, says the new health network could still be a step too far.
“In New Zealand we have a national network that covers about 80 per per cent or more of the population, so there is an opportunity there,” she said.
“I think that if we have the right level of dental care, we would have a dentists network that would cover a lot of people.”
Dr O’Conner says the plan will be a real challenge for dentistry.
“You’re going to be competing with other providers, and the cost will be going up.”
It’s not a fair way to fund a dental network.
“Dr Rosemarie O’Connell, a research fellow at the Institute for Rural and Regional Studies (IRRS), says dental insurance may be a way to encourage rural communities to invest in health and dental care.”
We don’t have a dental plan in place, we don’t know how much dental insurance the community will be able, so we may not be able or able to get the money that they need to invest,” she told ABC Radio’s The World Today.”
And so I think the dental insurance that we’re going with, the government is probably going to have to look at some changes to the health plan and the dental plan itself.
“The government is also considering a “courier-in-waiting” model, where rural communities will be provided a fixed amount of dental coverage.
But Dr O’Donnell says it is not a sustainable model.”
There’s a lot more that needs to be done to make sure that dental care is accessible to all of our communities.
“The government may not have the funds to cover it, but I think we can be confident that they will do the right thing and do it in a way that is sustainable and accessible to everyone.”