Finally some teeth in election health promises

2019 Australian Election
Sunday, April 28, 2019

Following on the heels of the Greens’ commitment to a universal dental health scheme, Labor’s commitment today to a Pensioner Dental Plan puts oral health firmly into national health policy, addressing one of the most significant gaps in the Australian health system - and an area which has seen significant funding cuts under the Coalition, says Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association (AHHA) Chief Executive, Alison Verhoeven.

‘Australia’s public dental health services have been grossly under-funded for too long,’ says Ms Verhoeven.

‘Waiting lists are huge, and too many people avoid urgently needed care, resulting in pain, health and nutrition issues, disfigurement and related social problems.

‘Labor’s targeted investment of $2.4 billion in the dental health needs of 3 million Australians over the age of 65 with pensioner concession cards and senior health cards importantly comes with a requirement that the states and territories maintain their current public dental efforts.  This will free up funding for adults under 65 to receive the care they need and will assist in reducing waiting lists.

‘We welcome Labor’s support for this funding to be used in Aboriginal Medical Services, as well as in public and private dental services. As in so many other areas of healthcare, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience significant inequity in accessing dental care. Improving access to care requires a commitment to improving access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led care.

‘There are significant data gaps in Australia’s national oral health data collections. The requirement for data to be shared with the Commonwealth as part of Labor’s announcement is a welcome measure. 

‘Data on health outcomes are needed to ensure public investments are targeted appropriately, and that high value care is provided to the people who need it most in a timely, safe and effective manner.

‘We note prevention would be included in the proposed agreement between the Commonwealth and states and territories in relation to the Pensioner Dental Plan.  We urge Labor to include water fluoridation as part of the prevention strategies in this plan. 

‘Three million Australians currently don’t have access to fluoridated water. There has been substantial evidence available for more than 50 years  that fluoridation prevents tooth decay.  If we really want to put teeth into health policy, we need to ensure fluoride is available in our water supply,’ says Ms Verhoeven.

To follow AHHA commentary throughout the election campaign, visit www.ahha.asn.au/election. You can also follow our #AusVotes2019 #AusVotesHealth commentary on Twitter by following @AusHealthcare.

Media enquiries:  

Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA

0403 282 501