Medicare with teeth: Senate call for public dentistry

Medicare dental subsidies
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An interim report into the state of Australia’s dental health has been tabled in the Senate, renewing calls for the inclusion of dental care in Medicare.

The Select Committee into the Provision and Access to Dental Services interim report has shown widespread support from experts and the community for broadening Medicare to include more dental and oral health care subsidies.

The committee received and published 62 submissions from relevant organisations and individuals in the creation of the report, as well as provided an online survey for the general public to share their experiences. The survey received over 17,000 responses, making it the largest committee survey response in the Parliament’s history.

The interim report outlines a number of preliminary proposals based on the expert submissions received so far. The committee intends to explore further issues and proposals before submitting their final report in November 2020.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) welcomed the release of the interim report.

“We’re delighted to see the Senate Committee recognises the need for system-wide reform,” ADA deputy CEO Eithne Irving.

“It is long overdue that the government took decisive steps to resolve the appalling oral health of millions of Australians.”

The ADA made their own submission to the inquiry in May 2023, in which they outlined their blueprint for the Australian Dental Health Plan.

“The ADA’s Plan, which includes the proposal for a Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme that has the support of not only the Royal Commission into Aged Care but also many aged care groups, provides a targeted path to increasing access to dental care,“ Irving said.

The ADA believes that the legislative framework under the Dental Benefits Act 2008, which is already in place for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, could be used to establish similar schemes such as the Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme without needing to revise the Medicare legislation.

“The Child Dental Benefits Schedule already operates as if it was running under Medicare but the legislation that allows it to operate is much easier to amend and expand for introducing new schemes. Government doesn’t need to wait—it could act now.”

This story first appeared on the InSight website.

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