New dental scheme announced

CHILDREN in regional areas and the nation's most disadvantaged groups will be among those to benefit from $2.7 billion in extra dental health care, the president of the Australian Dental Association said today.

Dr Shane Fryer welcomed Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek's announcement of a new $4.1 billion dental health scheme which formed part of the Greens deal which helped secure the Labor Party minority government in 2010.

Ms Plibersek said the package would include $2.7 billion for children in families receiving the Family Tax Benefit Part A, to the tune of $500 a year.

The subsidised dental care for about 3.4 million children would include teeth cleaning, check-ups and fillings among other services, but would not extend to braces or cosmetic dental care.

Ms Plibersek said the package also would include $1.3 billion for services for low income adults, while some $225 million would be spent on "dental infrastructure" in outer metropolitan, rural and regional areas.

Dr Fryer said the announcement was a welcome one and would benefit those in rural and regional areas, the disabled, indigenous people and others suffering financial difficulty.

He said while some of the funding announced would be new money, some was "old money", having come from existing government dental programs including the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme.

Dr Fryer said the CDDS had serious problems and welcomed the replacement of it with what he said he hoped would be a better program.

He said he expected the government to consult with the dental industry about how the new scheme would be implemented before it was launched in June 2014.

While the government announced about $515 million in the May budget to be spent on cutting huge waiting lists for dental health care, Dr Fryer said that was "still in the pipeline".

The new money, stretching into the billions of dollars, would have to be found in budget savings, Ms Plibersek said.

Cuts would need to be made to free up the spend, but she said those figures would not be revealed until the Mid Year Economic Fiscal Outlook was released, due out in November.

The entire $4.1 billion package would be spent over the next six years, pushing the final two years of the program out of the forward estimates, meaning money budgeted in those years would not have to be published in the current budget.

The dental package includes:

  • $2.7 billion for dental care for about 3.4 million children
  • $1.3 billion for about 1.4 million services for adults on low incomes
  • $225 million to expand services in outer metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas

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