More than three million children will be eligible for government-subsidised dental care, in the same way they’re now entitled to Medicare-funded GP visits, under a new scheme announced by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek today.
Under a landmark $4 billion package, the Gillard Government will also provide dental services to more than one million low income adults and Australians in rural and remote areas, focusing especially on pensioners.
The Dental Health Reform package is an initiative designed to address increasingly poor oral health amongst Australians – in particular, among low and middle income families. Dental decay in children, which has been increasing since the 1990s.
The six-year package includes:
- $2.7 billion for around 3.4 million Australian children who will be eligible for subsidised dental care;
- $1.3 billion for around 1.4 million additional services for adults on low incomes, including pensioners and concession card holders, and those with special needs; who will have better access to dental care in the public system; and
- $225 million for dental capital and workforce will be provided to support expanded services for people living in outer metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas.
“While Medicare and free hospital care have been a basic right for Australians for decades, millions of people in this country still go without adequate dental care,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Labor believes we have a responsibility to ensure Australians who are least able to afford to go the dentist, and particularly children, should be given access to government-subsidised oral health care.”
Ms Plibersek said recent studies showed children in the poorest areas experience one and a half times the amount of tooth decay and cavities, compared to those in the wealthiest areas.
“We also know that low income households have more than double the number of family members with untreated tooth decay compared with high income households.”
Ms Plibersek said the $4 billion package was in addition to the $515 million announced in the 2012-13 Budget, which included a blitz on public dental waiting lists, additional dental training and support for people in rural and remote areas.
“This package will deliver a better system of dental health care for Australians that is accessible, affordable and focuses on prevention.”
“Investment in our children’s teeth is an investment in the future,” said Ms Plibersek.
“We know that poor childhood oral health leads to poor adult oral health, and has wide-ranging impacts on general health and wellbeing, including strain on our health and hospital system.’’
The Dental Health Reform package will replace the Medicare Teen Dental Plan and the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme (CDDS). Legislation to enshrine the new entitlement for children will be introduced shortly, with bulk billed Dental services expected to roll out by 2014.
In a phone interview with Essential Kids, Ms Plibersek said that more work needed to be done to entice some parents to take their children to the dentist for a check-up.
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