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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2473

Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (15:46): Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator DI NATALE: I acknowledge that there have been some dentists who have been audited and found to be non-compliant for legitimate reasons. In some cases services were billed but not provided. They are not the subject of this motion.

A number of dentists have provided services to patients in good faith and good clinical outcomes were achieved with both the dentists and the patients being satisfied with the treatment. Unfortunately, due to simple technical and administrative errors, these people have been caught up in audits, in some cases totalling several hundred thousand dollars. Obviously we do not support any behaviour that involves deliberately defrauding the Commonwealth; in those cases the Medicare officers have every right to pursue those dentists. However, we do not support cases where dentists who provided services—and often bulk-billed patients in need and treated patients who had not had treatment for many years and required urgent dental care—are forced to repay Medicare when both the patients and dentists are satisfied with the treatment.

It is important to note that the basis for noncompliance in these instances has been not providing a treatment summary to the GP or not providing a written quote. Neither of those things affects the clinical outcome in this situation. It is untenable and unjustifiable for Medicare to be pursuing those dentists, largely and most significantly because they have never supported this scheme and they do not want this scheme to continue. It appears to be an effort to undermine the scheme and tarnish the name of many good dentists. (Time expired)