Rorts story reappears

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The ongoing ‘rort’ story around claims made by dentists under the Medicare EPC scheme has surfaced again, this time in South Australia. A report in a South Australian newspaper last weekend revealed two South Australian dentists claimed nearly $60,000 each, one from treating 44 patients and the other 24. The story also noted that one Victorian dentist was paid an extraordinary $2.1 million by taxpayers in “non-compliant” claims after being referred more than 1000 patients.

The newspaper report said the rorts investigation will now be expanded to the GPs that referred patients to the million-dollar dentists, with Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek warning dentists can pay back the money if they’ve rorted the scheme, or take the government to court.

In total, 10,000 dentists claimed $1.4 billion over the four-year life of the scheme, which was supposed to cost only $377 million. The results of an audit conducted by the Department of Human Services found $13 million in incorrect claims with 59 per cent of dentists audited failing to comply with the rules.

One dentist in NSW claimed $1.9 million for treating 525 patients identified as non-compliant with the original aims of the scheme. In Queensland, another practitioner claimed $75,000 for treating 59 patients.

“There’s a massive blowout. There’s just an incentive for dentists to go out and look for people to drag in your practice,” Ms Plibersek said. “In this instance, there were over 500 complaints and tip-offs from members of the public and other dentists.

“The theory is if you’ve got chronic gum disease and your teeth are falling out of your mouth, you can have other health effects. But the audit is throwing up whole families being referred to a dentist.”

Ms Plibersek said the audit would now be expanded to a further 400 dentists and people who had incorrectly claimed would be forced to pay the money back.

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the Coalition had made “sensible suggestions” on how to reform the scheme but had not reached agreement on legislative change.

 

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