Let’s remember Australians least able to afford dental care on Budget night

Monday, April 1, 2019

‘Let’s not forget Australians least able to access healthcare services when the Government presents its Budget tomorrow night in Canberra’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘And let’s not forget the lack of Government support for dental care.

‘With over 30% of Australian adults having untreated tooth decay, and out-of-pocket costs for dental care being higher than for any other category of health spending, clearly things need to change.

‘The fact that oral conditions are the third-highest reason for preventable hospital admissions is also a major concern.

‘More of the same in dental policy will hurt Australians most in need.

‘Wise money must be directed to preventing tooth decay and other oral health conditions happening in the first place.

‘It’s time the Australian Government reverses the massive cuts to adult public dental services and allow the most vulnerable Australians to get the immediate treatment they need right now.

‘This should be contingent on the states and territories making sure that every locality’s water supply is fluoridated.

‘The benefits of fluoridation for oral health are beyond question, and have been for over 50 years—yet over 3 million Australians do not have access to fluoridated water.

‘Commonwealth funding should also be contingent on states and territories providing nationally consistent outcomes data on public dental service provision so we can finally make evidence-informed policy decisions—the lack of nationally comparable data is a huge stumbling block.

‘With the Commonwealth subsidising private health insurers by more than $6 billion this year, insurers should provide outcomes data to support better health policy-making.

‘If the Australian Government is serious about working with First Peoples, it should quarantine 5% of its contribution to be delivered in regional partnership arrangements among Aboriginal Medical Services or Community Controlled Health Organisations and public dental services.

‘If the Australian Government is serious about safety and quality, it should require all dental practices to be accredited to national safety and quality standards regardless of whether a practitioner delivers services in the public or private sectors.

‘A 20% tax on sugary drinks, as supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), will reduce rates of tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. An estimated extra 1,600 people will be alive after 25 years as a result. This will deliver considerable health system savings and generate an estimated $400 million in revenue annually that should be transparently re-invested into our public healthcare system, including preventive health measures’, Ms Verhoeven said.

More information about the AHHA is available at ahha.asn.au

AHHA’s oral health position statement is available online.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:  Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

0403 282 501