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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3148

Mr Sainsbury (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 19 March 1980:

What is the estimated cost of extending the scope of pensioner benefit entitlements made available under the existing means test, to cover all pensioner dental costs.

Mr MacKellar (WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

There is no information available on which to base a firm estimate of the cost of extending the scope of the pensioner benefit entitlements (under the existing means test, or any other means test) to cover all pensioner dental costs. Persons covered by Pensioner Health Benefits entitlements include aged persons, widows, supporting parents, eligible service pensioners, and their dependants. The dental needs to be met under such a benefits scheme would vary widely, ranging from supervision of first teeth in children, extractions and fillings to fitting dentures and crowns. The costs of such a scheme would also be affected to the extent that benefits were payable on, for example, dentures and crowns. Further, it has been the experience with the introduction of various benefits schemes that there is high utilisation of the services available in the first years, which partly represents the initial use of the freer availability of services covered by the scheme.

From information obtained from a registered organisation under an ancillary benefits table, indications are that total dental fees could approximate $50 per person covered per annum. If this figure were applied to approximately 2 million persons with Pensioner Health Benefit entitlements, the annual costs would be of the order of $100 million. This figure could be subject to wide variation because utilisation rates that may be applicable to eligible pensioners and their dependants are likely to be at variance to those for the insured population. The ancillary benefits table in question is also subject to certain limitations in benefit cover. It is not known what would be the effect on total costs of removal of these limitations.

The benefits cost would depend upon the level of benefits set. If this was the same as is presently provided under the Medical Benefits Scheme for persons covered by Pensioner Health Benefits entitlements (i.e. 85 per cent of the Schedule fee, with a maximum difference of $5 between benefits and Schedule fees), the total benefits would be of the order of $85m to $87.5m

The actual utilisation and costs under the scheme for persons covered by Pensioner Health Benefits entitlements may be different to those given above (which are based on the experience of insured persons in an ancillary benefits table), because of the effect on the general dental health of the community and with changes in dental practice in recent years such as the greater emphasis on teeth retention than on extractions and fitting dentures.

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