Greens and PM stand-off over dental funding

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The dental funding buck stops here!

The Australian Greens have increased pressure on the Prime Minister Julia Gillard to honour their deal over delivery of a new universal dental scheme after she appeared to back away from the deal during question time this week.

On Tuesday Greens MP Adam Bandt asked Ms Gillard whether the government would stand by its commitment to start putting dental services under Medicare.

Gillard replied: “I think all of us in this chamber know . . . how expensive it can be to go to the dentist, and we know that there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who find themselves unable to meet the cost, with all of the pain and the degeneration of their teeth that that can cause for them.”

She said she wanted to do more and would soon receive the final report of an advisory council on the issue. But the government would have to weigh up the cost in the budget and “make the appropriate fiscal decisions for the nation”.

When asked about the response, Greens health spokesman, Richard Di Natale, said his party had a commitment from the government, and that “We’re optimistic they will honour that commitment.” Newspaper reports suggested the government remains keen to introduce some dental reforms, but has told the Greens it cannot afford their universal Medicare dental scheme, which would cost $5-6 billion a year.

The next day the Greens could ditch their opposition to a key aspect of Labor’s private health insurance (PHI) reforms if the federal government stumps up at least $1 billion for dental care in the May budget.

Debate on the government’s controversial plan to means-test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate resumed in the lower house on Thursday.

While the Greens support that change they are opposed to a linked reform to increase the Medicare levy surcharge for wealthy Australians who don’t have private cover.

But on Wednesday health spokesman Richard Di Natale said if Labor committed to investing in dental treatment the Greens could back the entire PHI package.

“If the government was to look at making some sort of concession in that (dental) area then we’d have to look at it,” the Victorian senator told reporters in Canberra.

However, if the government doesn’t play ball on dental care funding and at the same time ensures the rebate and surcharge bills aren’t split, the Greens will still likely vote with Labor.

“There’s no way that we’d sink that (rebate) bill if we couldn’t uncouple those bills,” Senator Di Natale admitted on Wednesday.

“We’d have to support that (entire PHI) package if that’s the way it was presented to us.”

The Greens on Wednesday insisted that regardless of the outcome on private health insurance the government had to make good on its 2011 pledge that dental health would be a priority for the 2012/13 budget.

Senator Di Natale says Labor needs to invest $1 billion this year “if they want to get anywhere”.

 

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Wouldn’t it be an idea to firstly fix DVA and CDSS for therapists and hygienists to provide that tx first!!!!!!?????!!!!

  2. First of all we should ,of course,be endeavouring to fix the dreadful lack of education as to what our fellow Australians can do to help themselves. Something as simple as the benefits of not using toothpaste must be explained, so as to halve plaque levels. Why are we dragging our feet?

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