Health minister promises cheaper dental care for all

Cheaper dental care for all by 2007 - that's the promise from healthcare minister Ylva Johansson, who has asked the head of the Swedish Social Insurance Administration, Curt Malmborg, to analyse the issue.

The reforms will cost “many billions” of kronor. But where the money will come from has not yet been disclosed.

The government’s coalition partners, the Left Party and the Greens, back the changes, which are expected to make it as cheap to go for a dental check up as it is for a medical check up.

Malmborg is expected to deliver the first of three reports in March, and the reforms could form part of the government’s election promises next September.

The reformed system will be generous, said Johansson, who refused to be drawn on the possible costs other than acknowledging that changes will be expensive.

Part of the problem with putting a price tag on a new system is that the government has asked for a tiered price structure, according to Johansson.

As far as how reform of the dental care system would be funded, Johansson would say only that “there is economic room” to pay for the changes.

The first report will deal with treatment of Swedes aged 20 and older. Up to the age of 19, dental care is free. But the government wants the older part of the population to be able to visit the dentist every 18 months at a cost similar to that of a trip to the doctor – a few hundred kronor.

Actual treatment will be paid for by the patient, but the reform will also include a fixed ceiling on payments, which will be determined by Curt Malmborg’s second report.

The principle behind the reforms is that nobody should refrain from having their teeth checked for economic reasons.

“It’s very worrying that more and more people say they cannot afford to visit the dentist,” said Ylva Johansson.

The third phase of the report, to be published at the end of 2006, will look at whether changes to the law are necessary.

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