Dental health funding a clawback on previous commitments

Monday, May 11, 2015

There is bittersweet news in Health Minister Ley’s confirmation yesterday of funding for the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Adult Public Dental Services and continued access to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, according to the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and the Consumers Health Forum (CHF), given that nearly 25% of the funding committed in last year’s Budget has been cut.

“In 2014, the Government deferred the commencement of the NPA by twelve months and the forward estimates identified an allocation of $200 million for 2015-16.  The Minister’s announcement yesterday cut this back to $155 million,” says Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive.

The Consumers Health Forum says there is high and unmet demand for public dental services, with waiting lists and other access barriers preventing consumers from obtaining care.  “Nearly one in three Australian consumers avoids dental treatment due to cost issues, with that figure rising to 47% for concession card holders.  This is unacceptable in modern-day Australia,” says CHF Chief Executive Officer, Leanne Wells.

“The conditions relating to the NPA funding must be urgently agreed with the states and territories to ensure continuity for patients and service providers,” AHHA and CHF say.  “In Opposition, the Coalition was critical of the gap between the end of the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme and the start of the NPA.  Any delay in the provision to the states and territories of the funding announced yesterday will be extremely disruptive to service provision and will have a negative impact on patients and their health.”

“We also hope that the full original allocation of $1.3 billion over 4 years will still be in the forward estimates given the Coalition’s pre-election commitment to honour the NPA arrangements.

“Minister Ley’s pre-Budget announcement noted the Government’s intention to tackle dental health services as part of the Reforming the Federation White Paper process. Maintaining the Government’s commitment to the $1.3 billion funding package over 4 years will ensure reform negotiations commence positively.

“Dental health is integral to overall health status, and requires partnership between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. In addition to improving the health and wellbeing of Australians, there is an important economic driver to take dental health seriously, with dental conditions underlying approximately 9% of potentially avoidable hospitalisations in Australia. The Reform discussion must also include consumers who incur significant out-of-pocket costs, being responsible for nearly 60% of the $8.7 billion spent on dental care every year.

“The Minister’s statement yesterday headlined the Government’s intention to get its teeth into dental reform, albeit with less money than previously committed.  We hope that the Government’s intention to consider dental health in the Federation Reform process goes beyond talk and is an active engagement with consumers, providers and the states and territories, to ensure real action on this important health issue.”

 

The AHHA represents Australia’s largest group of health care providers in public hospitals, community and primary health sectors and advocates for universal high quality healthcare to benefit the whole community.

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia through its member organisations represents two million health consumers

 

AHHA media contact:  Alison Verhoeven 0403282501

CHF media contact: Mark Metherell 0429111986

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