Delay in new public dental plan risks patient waiting list blowout

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With a funding deal between the federal and SA state government due to expire this month, public dental waiting lists are likely to get longer.

Thanks to a one-off $12 million deal that was extended to the end of December, more than 14,000 South Australians were treated last financial year.

The deal replaced a proposed $90 million plan over four years put in place by the former Labor federal government, which was shelved by the Coalition in the 2014-15 budget as it sought to manage the debt and deficit it inherited.

In April, Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley announced plans for a $2.1 billion Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme to replace existing agreements, but this has stalled in the Senate.

SA Minister for Health Jack Snelling earlier this week issued a ministerial statement to State Parliament noting he had written to Ms Ley communicating his “deep concern” over the delay.

“I understand that the intention was for this new scheme to be in place by 1 January, 2017,” he said.

“However, negotiations around this proposal appear to have stalled due to the Commonwealth Government’s difficulty in passing legislation through its Parliament.

“Minister Ley has made commitments to the COAG Health Council that, should the Commonwealth’s legislation not be passed in a timely manner, the arrangements under the current (agreements) would be extended until 30 June, 2017.

“We have not heard anything further from the Commonwealth on this matter.”

A spokesman for Ms Ley said the new scheme was intended to replace existing arrangements for both children and adults.

“Since the Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme has not yet been passed in legislation, the Child Dental Benefits Schedule will remain open until further notice,” the spokesman said.

“States will soon be advised of commonwealth funding arrangements under the National Partnership Agreement on Adult Public Dental Services, going forward.”

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