ADA supports dental benefits scheme for seniors

dental benefits scheme for seniors
Photo: Akhararat Wathanasing – 123rf

In order to turn the tide on poor oral health in aged care, the proposal by the counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to introduce a Senior Dental Benefits Scheme must be given serious consideration by the commissioners, says the Australian Dental Association.

The ADA is pleased the royal commission has agreed with its proposed alternative to funding oral care for certain seniors, but knows the recommendations now need to be followed through with some urgency.

“Creating such a scheme is critical to building better oral health among people in aged care,” ADA federal president Dr Carmelo Bonanno said.

“Without the funding mechanism to ensure that private dental practitioners can provide screening and treatment, the oral health of our most vulnerable population will continue to be neglected.”

In its submissions to the royal commission, the ADA outlined the need for a Senior Dental Benefits Scheme and its benefits relative to other models.

Under the ADA proposed scheme, Pensioner Concession Card holders aged over 65 and Commonwealth Seniors Card holders would receive an individual entitlement to subsidised public or private dental treatment up to a cap, for every two-year period. 

The entitlement could be used by patients to fund dental examinations before or on entry to aged care and regularly from then on, as well as oral health care planning once they access aged care, and any necessary treatment. 

Importantly, it would mean that older people would no longer need to languish on public dental waiting lists and would have the choice of continuing to see their regular dentist. 
In addition, by improving access to affordable and timely dental treatment for those aged 65 and above, the scheme would ensure that they do so with a better foundation of oral health.

Such a scheme also has the support of many aged care advocacy groups.

Dentists are familiar with and accepting of such schemes as demonstrated by the uptake of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme and the longstanding provision of services to veterans through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs dental scheme. 

Having a national scheme based on consistent eligibility criteria and treatment rules which can fund dental care for a high proportion of their residents/clients, will be equally important to aged care providers trying to navigate an already complex funding system. 

This article was sourced from an ADA media release.

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