(An x-ray of Josey Willier’s teeth which her doctor said needed braces to alleviate chronic teeth and jaw pain.)
Editor’s Note: In the story about Josey Willier’s braces, APTN News reported that her braces cost $8,000. APTN was contacted by the office of Jane Philpott, minister of Indigenous Services to say that the braces, originally paid for by the family, only cost $6,000. The federal government did spend $100,000 in legal fees arguing in court that the braces should not be covered under the non-insured health benefits program.
It was a three-year court battle of David versus Goliath proportions and the victory will have rippling effects for other kids covered by Health Canada’s Non-Insured Health Benefits program.
Josey Willier, from Sucker Creek First Nation in Alberta, was just 13 when she suffered crippling chronic pain from the position of her teeth and jaw.
Her physician said braces were medically necessary but government doctors – who never examined the girl – denied they were needed.
So NIHB refused to cover the $8,000 treatment.
The family took the government to court and rather than paying for the braces, the federal government spent $100,000 arguing why Canada should not pay.
The case was settled this week.
“We’ve been working with them steadily over the last few months to reach an agreement,” said Josey’s mother Stacey Shiner.
“My mindset was I wouldn’t settle until they changed their policy so this doesn’t happen to other children.”
The deal, terms of which weren’t disclosed, came at the 11th hour this week, just ahead of when the Federal Court of Appeal was to decide on the matter.
“This is a huge step forward,” said Shiner. “It used to be a checked-box scenario of what was required but it leaves so many grey areas. Pain and discomfort are now factors.”
A statement released by the family mentioned Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, who was an ally during the court battle.
Blackstock said her agency will be watching to ensure the new orthodontic policy complies with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders on Jordan’s Principle.
According to a statement released by Jane Philpott, minister of Indigenous Services, the department will be updating its non-insured health benefits by June 15 to include more health services for First Nation and Inuit children.
“I am pleased a settlement agreement has been reached relating to orthodontic coverage under the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program,” said Philpott in the statement released Tuesday evening.
“I am confident that the services Indigenous Services Canada provides are contributing to better oral health outcomes for First Nations and Inuit. The orthodontic coverage under the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program is comprehensive and based on clinical evidence.”
During the court fight, Josey’s parents paid out of pocket for the braces. She’s had them off now for about a year.