ADA worried about Child Dental Benefits Scheme

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Health Minister Peter Dutton won't delay the onset of the new scheme.
Health Minister Peter Dutton won’t delay the onset of the new scheme.

Even though the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) is due to commence on 01 January 2014, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has expressed concern that there has been a lag in educating dentists about the administrative requirements of participation. Following the profession’s negative experience of the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, there is concern that everyone knows the ground rules for the new CDBS from day one.

The ADA has written to Hon. Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Health, and Mr Charles Maskell-Knight, Principal Advisor at the Department of Human Services, outlining the ADA’s concerns, and is also taking media opportunities to highlight some of the flaws in the CDBS. In an article in yesterday’s newspaper, the ADA President Karin Alexander said the Health Minister has refused to delay the scheme, despite dentists saying they are unprepared for the new program, under which they will provide free dental care up to $1000 in value every two years for every eligible child aged two to 17. There is also uncertainty as to who exactly an “eligible child” is. Parents will be informed of their eligibility next month, the newspaper said, and a Health Department official told Senate estimates that because of the way the legislation is structured, ”it was impossible to tell with certainty whether someone will be eligible” before then.

”There are still some areas of greyness within the administrative requirements,” Dr Alexander told the newspaper, who is concerned dentists could make mistakes early in the scheme. ”We just want to make sure everyone is educated.”

The scheme has also been renamed. It will no longer be called Grow Up Smiling, the name used by the former government when it announced the plan to improve the oral health of children from low income families who could not afford private dental care.

Now to be known as the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, it will replace the existing system that provides free dental care for all children under 12 regardless of income, and the teen voucher system. Children whose parents are on income support or receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A will be eligible for free dental treatment such as check-ups, X-rays, fillings and extractions. It will operate like Medicare’s bulk billing.

A spokeswoman for the Health Department said letters will be sent to dentists this month providing details of the program. Dentists will also be provided with a Quick Reference Guide, a Guide to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, an e-learning module and an information hotline for dental provider inquiries.

Dr Alexander said she asked Mr Dutton for some leniency for administrative errors that could be made by dentists as they learn the new system’s requirements.

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