Australia’s best and brightest pearly whites
The Government will be rolling out a new four-billion-dollar dental health scheme, reports Danielle Robertson.
A new scheme beginning in 2014 will allow under-18s and low-income earners to gain access to subsidised dental health, at the loss of two other existing dental schemes, both relieving and concerning the dental industry.
The NSW Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, announced the plan in the first week of September, which will begin in 2014. Under the scheme, more than three million children, as well as low-income earners, will gain access to subsidised dental health care through Medicare. Australian Dental Association Executive, Dr Hugo Sachs, said that the funding announced is simply not enough.
“The unfortunate part in this whole program – it’s not going to be near enough adequate funding if you want a full range of treatment available,” he said.
“Certainly not enough to cover the requirements of a very large percentage of people that are eligible.”
The agreement has been made possible with the support of the Greens and will replace the two other existing dental schemes for chronic disease and teenage patients. Dr Sachs said this replacement would have a negative impact on the industry.
“I think the government is making significant savings in the current spend that it has and I also think that there is going to be an upward pressure on the public dental clinics that are on-demand,” he said.
“You will see waiting lists, particularly for the disadvantaged, increasing until the scheme comes in and it’s obviously going to be at a much less money value than the CDDS [chronic disease dental scheme].
The new plan would combine the existing schemes and may lead to less paperwork for dentists themselves. A Central Sydney dentist, David Hatten, believes that getting rid of the current schemes will relieve burden and stress.
“For most of us it will be a relief, an absolute relief, because it will also make it much easier from our side of the coin,” he said.
“For example, yesterday I saw a patient under the chronic disease dental scheme and just to work out all the logistics and the paperwork and everything else took an hour, and the actual dental part of it would take 15 minutes.”
Under the plan, children aged two to 18 years of age will be able to access basic dental treatment, capped at 1000 dollars per patient. Dr Hatten said that children under the age of two can suffer from tooth decay but this scheme will not cover the cost.
“[Among others,] one of the factors of dental decay is low socioeconomic level and certainly there’s kids younger than two who have rampant dental decay who need to be treated under general anaesthetic… and that is very expensive, certainly a lot more than 1000 dollars, and for people who are disadvantaged, it’s not going to do it.”
Over two million dollars will be spent on improving facilities in rural areas and boosting the dental workforce. Dr Sachs said that there are a lot of economically viable practices that require more staffing, let alone those in remote areas.
“The manpower issue is just a matter of trying to attract people to go to areas, where in many respects, it’s economically not viable to set up a full-time dental practice,” Dr Sachs said.
Dr Hatten said it was hard to evaluate whether or not it will be effective without knowing the finer details. Overall, he believes it is a good concept.
“The devil’s in the detail because nothing’s been revealed yet about how it’s all going to work,” he said.
“It’s certainly heading in the right direction, providing that the lessons that have been learned from the chronic disease dental scheme are followed. We’ll see what happens.”