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Federal Labor clear dental backlog by establishing a Commonwealth Dental Health Program.



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JOINT STATEMENT

KEVIN RUDD MP FEDERAL LABOR LEADER and NICOLA ROXON SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH

FEDERAL LABOR CLEAR DENTAL BACKLOG BY ESTABLISHING A COMMONWEALTH DENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM

A Rudd Labor Government will fund up to one million additional dental consultations for Australians needing dental treatment by establishing a Commonwealth Dental Health Program.

Federal Labor Leader Kevin Rudd today pledged to invest up to $290 million to a Commonwealth Dental Health Program - one of the first programs scrapped by the Howard Government in 1996.

This is the first instalment of Labor’s Commonwealth Dental Health Program.

Today 650,000 Australians are on public dental waiting lists around the country.

The 2007 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report concluded that:

• 30 per cent of Australians reported avoiding dental care due to cost; • 20.6 per cent said that cost had prevented them from having recommended dental treatment; and • 18.2 per cent reported that they would have a lot of difficulty paying a $100 dental

bill.

Over the past 11 years the Howard Government has withdrawn $1.1 billion in dental services.

Under Federal Labor’s plan, over three years, up to one million Australians will finally receive much needed dental treatment.

The Howard Government’s Chronic Disease Scheme has failed to assist the hundreds of thousands languishing on dental waiting lists. Over the past three years, it has only assisted 7,000 people due to complex eligibility and referral criteria.

As part of Federal Labor’s determination to take national leadership and end the blame game in health, funding will be available for the States and Territories to help clear the backlog.

They will either supplement their existing public services or purchase private sector appointments for the hundreds of thousands stuck on their waiting lists.

Australian working families are already under financial pressure due to mortgages, child care, grocery and petrol costs. They are being forced to make stark choices between dental treatment and other day-to-day necessities.

Healthy teeth are important to a person’s overall general health. It is impossible to have a healthy body when you have sick teeth.

Tooth decay ranks as Australia’s most prevalent public health problem and 25.5 per cent of Australia’s adult population have untreated tooth decay.

Under the Rudd Labor plan, State and Territory Governments - in exchange for additional funding - will be required to meet new standards of dental care. They include:

• Providing priority services to individuals with chronic diseases affected by poor oral health; • Providing timely service for preventative and emergency services; and • Maintaining current effort.

Federal Labor will fund this program by drawing funding from its non-performing dental services program.

The Howard Government’s Record on Dental Health

The Howard Government plays the Blame Game on dental health

• The Howard Government scrapped Labor’s Commonwealth Dental Health Program (CDHP) in 1996, ripping $100 million from public dental services; • State and Territory Governments have more than doubled their investment in public dental care over the past decade (from $205 million in 1995-96 to $503 million in

2004-05), but public dental waiting lists have blown out to 650,000 people since the Howard Government axed the CDHP.

Australia's dental health is getting worse

• Tooth decay ranks as Australia’s most prevalent health problem; • 25.5 per cent of the Australian adult population has untreated dental decay; • One in six Australians aged over 15 have avoided certain foods because of problems with their teeth during the last 12 months;

• 50,000 Australians a year are hospitalised for preventable dental conditions;

• Between 1996 and 1999 five year olds experienced a 21.7 per cent increase in deciduous (falling out) tooth decay; • Hospitalisation rates for children under five for dental conditions increased by 91 per cent between 1994-95 and 2004-05; • There was a 42 per cent increase in children being treated in private hospitals for

dental cavities between 2000 and 2005.

The Howard Government’s failing dental program

• In 2004 the Howard Government made dental care available through Medicare to people with chronic illnesses and complex care needs; • The scheme has been riddled with problems since its inception - including complex and restrictive eligibility criteria; high out of pocket costs; and complex referral

process from GPs; • As a result, the scheme has assisted only 7,000 people at a cost of $1.8 million in three years; and • Pouring more money into a failing scheme won't help solve Australia's dental crisis.

CANBERRA 18 SEPTEMBER 2007

Lachlan Harris (Rudd) 0417 592 338 Sean Kelly (Roxon) 0417 108 362