Nova Scotia premier walks back decision ending coverage for kids dental cleaning

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Thu, Jul 26: Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is talking back on a decision to end coverage for kids dental cleaning. Jeremy Keefe has the story – Jul 26, 2018

Nova Scotia’s Liberal premier has moved to overrule an unidentified Health Department bureaucrat who ended provincial coverage of children’s dental cleaning without clearing it with the political bosses.

Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday a bulletin announcing the change was sent without his knowledge – and the decision would be reversed.

“They were attempting to make a clarification on a policy,” said McNeil.

“But that’s not their decision, that’s a decision for government, and that’s a decision that comes to my table. And that decision was not at our table.”

READ MORE: Report finds 6 per cent of Nova Scotia children have cavities by age 6

The July 12 update said the Health Department was immediately removing coverage for minor scaling and polishing for children under the age of 15.

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McNeil’s reversal came just two days after the Nova Scotia Dental Association issued a directive advising dentists the cleanings would no longer be covered.

The premier blamed an unidentified bureaucrat for the mix-up.

“What was covered yesterday, what we paid for yesterday, we will pay for tomorrow,” he told reporters following a cabinet meeting.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the handling of the issue shows the Liberal government is “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to improving dental care for children.

WATCH: Nova Scotians receive timely health assistance

Click to play video 'Nova Scotians receive timely health assistance' Nova Scotians receive timely health assistance
Nova Scotians receive timely health assistance – Jul 25, 2018

The current program covers children 14 and under and Burrill says if anything it should be expanded to at least 16 years of age.

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“We have 90,000 people in our province who can’t go to the dentist, whose families don’t get dental care because they don’t have the money. We know this from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.”

Progressive Conservative house leader Chris d’Entremont said there was no excuse for the government’s conduct that he said amounted to a “cop out.”

“They can blame it on a bureaucrat all they want … how the department didn’t know about it, how the minister didn’t know about it, how the premier didn’t know about it is a bit perplexing,” he said.