Dental package leaves health services smiling

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

 

The Government’s dental package of $4.6 billion (over 6 years) will give the most vulnerable Australians something to smile about, according to the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA). 

The Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association is the independent peak membership body and advocate for the Australian healthcare system and a national voice for universally accessible, high quality healthcare.

“After nine years of campaigning for a public dental program, AHHA welcomes the announcement of this substantial dental package which supports 1) all children whose families are eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A and 2) low-income adults who are most in need of dental care. These are the groups who currently struggle to afford dental care and who most need assistance,” Ms Prue Power AM, AHHA CEO, said today.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek is to be congratulated for achieving this major win for the most needy in our community and acknowledgement must also go to former Health Minister Nicola Roxon and the Greens for their important roles in delivering this package.

“AHHA supports the entitlement scheme for eligible children as it ensures that children and adolescents receive good quality care, giving them the best start in life and preventing the development of more serious problems.

“Enhanced access to public dental services for people on low incomes means they will now be able to access timely dental care, which can be more preventively focused, instead of languishing on long waiting lists. It is also important to target adults who are unable to access dental care in the private system. Currently, almost half a million Australians are currently on waiting lists for public dental treatment with an average waiting time of two years.

“Ensuring these people can access treatment earlier will reduce the development of more serious dental and broader health problems which cost the health system millions every year. In fact, economic modelling, commissioned by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, found that the cost to the economy of poor access to dental care was up to $2.0 billion per year. This includes the cost associated with preventable hospital admissions (due to untreated dental problems) and forgone productivity with over one million work days lost due to poor dental health every year.

“AHHA also welcomes the creation of an expert group to oversee the implementation of the scheme and the additional funding of $225m for infrastructure grants. We also note that the success of the scheme depends upon the States continuing their current level of contribution for dental care and appropriate workforce support, including an increased role for oral health therapists, dental therapists and dental hygienists.

“Ultimately, AHHA would like to see a Universal Oral and Dental Health Scheme for all Australians, similar to Medicare. However, we acknowledge that this is difficult to achieve in the current economic climate and we welcome today’s announcement as a solid foundation on which to build in the future,” Ms Power said.

For more information/comment: Ms Prue Power, CEO AHHA, 0417 419 857