Dental report is in

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek is considering the Council's report.

This week Health Minister Tanya Plibersek welcomed the final report of the National Advisory Council on Dental Health. Earlier this month the Minister made reference to the importance she placed on the report, when commenting on her promise to put $165 million toward dental care in return for the support of the Greens in passing health insurance legislation. Back then, the minister clarified that the money will not be spent under the current Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, and will not be allocated until she has received a report from the National Advisory Council on Dental Health.

The Council’s report has concluded too many Australians have poor oral health and as a result suffer pain and social exclusion.

The out-of-pocket cost to the health system per year is about $4.5 billion, but the report says the price tag for fixing the system so that those who need dental services can afford them is at least double that. It also recommends federal, state and territory governments invest more than $10 billion extra to fix the system.

The National Advisory Council on Dental Health was established last year to examine dental health issues, including the current mix and coverage of Australia’s dental services, in order to provide expert advice on needs and priorities for reform.

“I greatly appreciate the hard work the council has put into preparing this comprehensive and considered report,” said Ms Plibersek.

Ms Plibersek said the report raised questions and pointed to challenges which would need to be resolved in order to deliver a publicly funded dental scheme.

She said any scheme would need to be managed in a fiscally responsible way and be phased in over a period of time. She also said would also need to account for existing Commonwealth funding of dental care and be established after the closure of the current Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme.

The minister now says the Government will be considering the content of the report as it continues to examine options for public dental care in Australia.

The ADA has cautiously welcomed the report, saying the Council has had the opportunity to consider the evidence and a number of models for the provision of dental care. The ADA is pleased the Council’s report recognises the necessity to target the disadvantaged and the long-term benefits of improving access to dental care for children.

“The report presents the Government with options for delivery of dental care to the many Australians who cannot access care now,” said ADA President, Dr Shane Fryer.

“Dentists support the focus on improving delivery of dental services to children and disadvantaged adults. The ADA is supportive of the report’s emphasis on community oral health education and early intervention.”

The ADA has long advocated a targeted scheme for Australians who cannot afford to access quality dental care.


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