Dental Board worries patients are accessing super to fund dental care

accessing super to fund dental
Photo: kritchanut 123rf

The Dental Board of Australia is concerned about growing reports of dental practitioners encouraging patients to access superannuation to fund dental care.

Patients may apply for early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds if they meet certain eligibility criteria. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) manages that application process and the rules around the release of superannuation.

According to ATO statistics, the amount approved for early release for dental treatment was $313.4m in the 2022/23 financial year, up from $171.3m in the preceding financial year. This is an 83 per cent increase in just 12 months.

Over the past five years, the value of superannuation withdrawn for dental treatments nationally has jumped by 373 per cent.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) has received a small number of notifications in relation to dental patients accessing their superannuation to pay for dental treatments, but the number of complaints may be lagging behind the rapid rise in people accessing their retirement savings for treatment.

“The dramatic increase in the number of people getting early access to superannuation has only occurred in the past two years so we are not yet seeing an increase in notifications,” Dental Board chair Dr Murray Thomas said.

“The Dental Board is concerned by this sudden rise and sees this as an emerging issue that may lead to more complaints in the near future.

“The Board is acting now to address this issue to try to reduce the number of potential complaints by reminding practitioners that good dental practice involves upholding the right of patients to gain access to necessary levels of healthcare while ensuring the services provided are necessary, appropriate, and likely to benefit the patient.”

While registered dentists provide reports supporting the release of superannuation for compassionate grounds, they must comply with the Board’s Code of conduct which expects them to provide honest and accurate information to the ATO.

Providing misleading information to support a patient’s request to draw from superannuation is potentially grounds for the Board to consider disciplinary action, in addition to any action that the ATO may deem necessary.

Dr Thomas said the Board urges dental practitioners to ensure they comply with the advertising requirements under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory, and the Board’s Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service, when promoting that patients apply for compassionate release of superannuation.

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