Changes to Special Needs Grant limits for dental treatment come into force today.
Minister for Social Development and Employment, Carmel Sepuloni said the change, announced in Budget 2022, will help more people get access to much-needed dental treatment earlier.
“Increasing dental grants and changing the criteria was a key manifesto commitment and today we are delivering on our promise,” said Ms Sepuloni.
“In Budget 2022 we also increased the income thresholds for hardship assistance which means low income working people may also be eligible for support.
“This is the first time in 25 years the grant has been increased, and we have invested $125.804 million over four years to achieve this.”
From today, the limit to Special Needs Grants for dental treatment will increase from $300 to $1,000. This is non-recoverable so it doesn’t need to be paid back. In addition to this, the requirement for the need to have arisen from an emergency will be removed.
Health Minister, Andrew Little said the changes were likely to help around 50,000 people get the dental care they need.
“By providing more help to the people who need it most, and by widening the criteria for the type of work that can be done, we can help stop what are minor problems become major problems needing substantial surgery,” Mr Little said.
“This is what our health reforms are about – improving access to healthcare earlier, so people don’t end up needing more expensive care further down the track.”
During 2021, approximately 40,000 people used the $300 Special Needs Grant through MSD for dental support, and then received an Advance Payment of Benefit to fully meet their emergency dental costs, at an average cost of $870 per Advance.
“By increasing the dental grant to $1,000, it’s estimated that we will reduce the amount of client debt to MSD by $95 million over four years, as more of the cost will be covered by the grant,” Ms Sepuloni said.
“Criteria changes ensure that these grants can be used for multiple visits throughout the year. We’ve also removed the criteria from ‘emergency’ to ‘immediate and essential’ care. These changes mean that people can get the dental treatment they need before it becomes urgent.
“Treatments that exceed the $1,000 limit may be fully covered by the grant where there are exceptional circumstances, which will be determined by MSD on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, people may be eligible for an Advance Payment of Benefit or Recoverable Assistance Payment to cover the extra amount.