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Public dental service just a drop in the $2.3 billion bucket.

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Senator Meg Lees Parliamentary Leader and Senator for South Australia Australian Democrats spokesperson for Health

Press Release Dated: 14 Jun 2000

Press Release Number: 00/346 Portfolio: Health 

Public dental service just a drop in the $2.3 billion bucket The Australian Democrats today called on the Federal Government to re-instate the $100 million Commonwealth Dental Health Program, saying the cost is insignificant compared to the $2.3 billion of taxpayer funds it is using to prop up the private health insurance industry.

Australians on low incomes and those living in rural areas are suffering poor dental health because the Federal Government refuses to accept responsibility for dental health care, the Australian Democrats said today.

Democrats’ Leader and health spokesperson, Senator Meg Lees said it is outrageous that a Government can spend billions on a non-means tested rebate for private health insurance while at the same time deny the most disadvantaged people access to basic services.

“The Democrats have been calling for many years for the Federal Government to put funding back into public dental health services,” Senator Lees said.

“The Federal Government abolished the Commonwealth Dental Health Program four years ago, claiming that dental health is a State Government responsibility.

“This was despite the fact that the program had been an obvious success in expanding services to regional areas and in reducing waiting times.”

In May 1998 the Democrats called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report on Public Dental Services. The Report recommended that the Commonwealth put funding back into public dental health services.

The Inquiry, initiated by the Democrats, clearly showed that the abolition of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program had resulted in decreased oral

health among disadvantaged people. Since the Program was abolished waiting lists and waiting times for treatment had increased dramatically.

"In discussing this issue with people in the community I have heard stories of elderly and frail people being unable to eat properly due to ill-fitting dentures, children starting school with every one of their teeth decayed and young people with oral diseases unable to gain employment," said Senator Lees.

Since then, the situation has deteriorated even further, according to the results of an investigation released today. Today’s results show that low-income Australians can wait up to five years for basic dental health care.

“This should not be happening in a first world country like Australia,” said Senator Lees.

“Lack of access to dental care can have serious long-term effects on health and well-being and on things like employment prospects and level of confidence.

“This Government has money available when it comes to providing incentives for middle and high-income earners to join a private health fund. It is simply not good enough to pass the buck to the States. The Commonwealth Dental Health Program was a proven success and should be re-instated.

“While dental care is excluded from the Medicare system the Federal Government has to take some responsibility to ensure basic services are available to all Australians, not just those who can afford them,” Senator Lees concluded.


Top | Email Authorised by: Jim Downey, 10 Brisbane Avenue, Barton ACT 2604. Copyright © 2000 Australian Democrats Last modified: Thu, 18 May 2000 13:51:26 Today: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 08:34:18