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Federal dental plans: blame game continues.

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Australian Dental Association Inc. 75 Lithgow Street St Leonards NSW 2065 Telephone: 02 9906 4412 Facsimile: 02 9906 4736.

28 October 2008

Federal Dental Plans - Blame Game Continues

“If having Federal, State and Territory Governments under Labor was seen as a panacea for the health ills of Australians, then in the dental environment this has proven to be a false hope,” Dr John Matthews, President of the Australian Dental Association (ADA) said today.

Current Position

An impasse seems to have been reached between the Federal Senate which wishes to retain the Medicare Enhanced Primary Care Scheme 1 and the ALP’s call for the introduction of an ill defined and underfunded Commonwealth Dental Health program.

We now have calls from a variety of sectors suggesting solutions to this impasse. They range from all dental treatment being placed under Medicare to only basic treatment being universally covered under Medicare.

The Problem

“Although tooth decay is almost universal in Australian adults, it is said that 35% of Australians have difficulty affording dental treatment and about 20% of Australians have untreated dental conditions. If correct then this is the area where focus ought to be directed,” Dr Matthews said today.

Addressing the Problem: ADA Position

An effective compromise between the conflicting positions espoused would be to accept the ADA’s long held recommendation to limit eligibility of Federal dental schemes to financially disadvantaged Australians. This would prove to be an effective way to not only provide many more Australians with access to dental care, but would also help alleviate the dire position of the States and Territories in relation to their dental waiting lists. We wonder why Governments continue to fail to engage in meaningful consultation with the ADA and ignore its advice.

“To simply suggest that ‘high end’ dental treatment2 be excluded from the current EPC scheme is ill informed. If worthwhile viable and effective treatment is to be provided it should not be delivery of compromised dentistry - that would be a plain waste of money. Poor dentistry for disadvantaged people is not the answer.”

“If the government wants to provide treatment to Australians then it should focus its attention and funding on the financially disadvantaged - the quoted 35% of Australians that are not accessing care now. The imposition of a means tested qualification to eligibility is the answer.”

“The ADA has repeatedly called on Governments to do this and also remove the medical GP pathway through which patients have to pass and to use dental advisers as per the DVA scheme to allow for special cases and reduce over servicing.”

1 Through which patients with chronic illnesses can be referred by their medical GP for dental treatment covered by Medicare, 2 Australian Heathcare and Hospitals Association Media Release 23 October 2008.

Australian Dental Association Inc. 75 Lithgow Street St Leonards NSW 2065 Telephone: 02 9906 4412 Facsimile: 02 9906 4736.

“The ADA has also pointed out in the past the reasons why dental care does not suit Medicare schemes. 3 You only have to look at the nationalised scheme introduced in the UK. It failed and is being wound back. Purely from an economic perspective, if dental care is costing over $6 billion annually and it is only servicing a fraction of the population then to place all dental care under Medicare will cost in excess of $10 billion.”

“The only sensible and viable answer is to provide funding where it is most needed and that is to the financially disadvantaged, coupled with meaningful preventive programs.”

Commonwealth Dental Health Program

“Government is making much of its promise to deliver $290m under its proposed Commonwealth Dental Health Program. Other than it appears to be underfunded, precisely what it entails is largely unknown. The ADA fears that this Federal Government funding will result in the State and Territory governments only cutting back on their dental expenditure -with no resultant improvement and so solve nothing!”

The ADA has already seen some State and Territory budgets provide increased funding for dental care at levels less than inflation. This may have been in anticipation of Federal funding and could be indicative of what will happen in the future.

Media contacts: Dr John Matthews - President - 0407 800 137; Mr Robert Boyd-Boland - Chief Executive Officer - 02 9906 4412 / 0417 677 607.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is the peak national professional body representing about 10,000 registered dentists engaged in clinical practice. ADA members work in both the public and private sectors. The primary objectives of the ADA are to promote the practice of evidence-based dentistry and encourage access for all Australians to affordable preventive oral care. Further information on the activities of the ADA and State and Territory Branches

can be found at

3 ADA National Dental Update -March 2008. (