Is Medicare dental coming?

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Above: the last Health Minister to introduce a Medicare dental scheme.
Above: the last Health Minister to introduce a Medicare dental scheme.

Following the victory by the Coalition in the election last weekend, Australians can finally welcome a government whose stated policy aim is to bring dentistry under Medicare.

As pointed out this week by the ADIA, the incoming Coalition Government has committed to retaining current funding levels for dental care over the short to medium term and has signalled intent to transition all programs to the Medicare system.

On page 17 of the Coalition’s health policy, released last month, it says that “the new government will honour the arrangements under the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) for adult public dental services and will continue to work with stakeholders, patient representatives and state / territory governments to improve the scheme as necessary. This program is to provide $200 million over FY2014/15 and $295 million over FY2015/16. At the expiry of the NPA, the Coalition will seek to transition the respective adult dental services to the Medicare system.”

The ADIA added that the “intent of the Coalition to use the Medicare system as its preferred funding mechanism for dental and oral healthcare, as opposed to providing tied funding to state / territory governments, is consistent the discussions that the Australian Dental Industry Association has had with the Shadow Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, over the course of the past three years.”

The Australian Dental Association has long-opposed the introduction of dentistry to Medicare, instead preferring a scheme more targeted at the one third of the population who cannot afford dental care.

The last time an Australian government suggested a broad-based Medicare Dental scheme, it was the CDDS, which was introduced by the then-Health Minister Tony Abbott in the dying days of the Howard Government. Subsequent efforts, such as the Medicare Teen Dental Scheme, were limited in scope and considered relatively unsuccessful.

 

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