ADA disputes claims by Private Healthcare Australia

The Australian Dental Association has strongly criticised the response of Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David to a recent article published in Fairfax media.

ADA president Dr Hugo Sachs said it confirms why no-one should trust what she says.

“Dr David’s selective use of data suggesting that health fund payments for dental services are increasing fails to reflect the fact that while the number of services provided may have increased, the amount rebated by health funds has actually decreased,” he said.

“The ADA is correct in its claim that ‘extras policies’ are not value for money and consumers would be better off putting their money into a savings account.”

The ADA recently commissioned the Centre for International Economics to identify the core components of a Health Saving Account model for consideration by the government as a more suitable product to supplement hospital health insurance policies. The findings of the report indicate that consumers would be much better off under such a model.

The release this week of figures by Choice on premium increases that took effect on 1 April demonstrates that while this year’s premium increase was the lowest in some time at 3.95 per cent, in reality, many are experiencing increases in the order of 45 per cent.

Choice has reported that premiums have increased by 70 per cent in the last decade while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) grew by only 26 per cent. The ADA believes that these increases without a commensurate increase in rebates are the real reason why Australians are dropping their private health insurance cover.

“Dr David continues to try and shift the cause of premium increases towards provider’s fees,” Dr Sachs said.

“Dental fees are not the problem as they have remained below CPI for many years. With year-on-year increases in premiums, large profit margins and increasing subsidisation by taxpayers, it’s time that health funds gave back to patients and increased the rebates, not just for dental treatments but across the board.”

Based on a media release sourced from the ADA website.

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10 Comments

  1. Dental fees are the problem. Not only is there a lack of independent data on dental fee increases, but there is no dental fee schedule (unlike the Recommended Fee Schedules published by the AMA and the APS). Thus claims about minimal dental fee increases are redundant. Australian dental fees will remain unnecessarily high, as dentists (most with undergraduate degrees) continue to earn more than medical specialists and doctors (MJA, 2011; Hartley & Rowley, 2016). A Medicare model with an independent workforce of oral health therapists is needed.

    References
    Hartley, J. & Rowley, D. (2016). New dentists earn more than new doctors, Australian Doctor, 27 May 2016, p. 4.
    MJA. (2011). Dentists are top earners. Medical Journal of Australia, Issue 25, http://www.doctorportal.com.au/mjainsight/2011/25/dentists-are-top-earners/

    1. oh dear…….There is so much wrong with ‘Consumers’ claims; namely –

      – The ADA used to run recommended fees schedules for years (I used them after graduating in the mid 80’s). The legal advice based from a strong stance from ACCC etc was that such a “suggested minimum fee schedule” was akin to price-fixing, and therefore had to be abolished. Comparison to the AMA is wide of the mark; the AMA is in direct negotiations with Medicare and has its fees negotiated with the government, dentists have no such funding arrangement. Truth is that, as independent researchers like CHOICE have shown, dental fees vary widely according to many factors (location and soaring rents being the biggest one), but have universally been flat or below CPI for many years now.

      – Dental graduates do have amongst the highest graduate salaries amongst the professions……..and sadly that’s where they stay!!!. Unlike other professions, salary increases are limited to simply how much work they can do. A young dentist works about as fast as an experienced one, and the difference in income between each varies little. Whereas a lawyer earns more as they climb the corporate ladder (experience, tenure, associateship, through to partnership) and Doctors increase their pay through age, experience and credentials, no such avenue exists for dentists. To claim we are earn more than medical specialists and doctors is simply untrue: According to living-australia.com, the median salary of a dentist is about a third of that of a medical GP, even less than that of a specialist.

      1. According to the ACCC, professional associations are operating within the law (Competition and Consumer Act) by providing industry pricing information as a recommendation or guide only (i.e. they cannot be enforced/mandatory). Any prices they recommend ‘should be developed on the basis of costing or other calculations by an outside party’:
        https://www.accc.gov.au/business/professional-services/professional-associations

        As professional associations, the AMA and the APS also operate under this law (Competition and Consumer Act) – hence the comparison.

  2. Dentistry is a specialist field in itself. It is a very technique sensitive field requiring laborious manual and mental work. Comparing a doctor and dentist in no way is justified.Recently dentists are struggling to find jobs and those with private practice are finding it hard to compete with the corporates. The overheads of a dentist is far more than a doctor. Even the cost of initial set up of a practice is many folds than a doctors practice.

    Don’t forget that the Medicare covers for medical but none for dental treatment. Gone are the days when dentists were high earners.

    Oral health therapist are not trained adequately to work independent. Rather than the oral therapist model, the public funding for dental services should be distributed between private and public clinics like NHS. This can bring more consistent fee structure across the dental industry.

    1. Is that why most dentists do facial cosmetic Botox now? Oral health therapists are in fact very well trained to work independently, and they are not likely to indulge in practices that are questionable in terms of scope of practice, like dentists with Botox, to make a buck.

      1. “To make a buck”, the other side of the story is because as a business the dental practices are struggling so unless they offer more, its hard to compete. And regarding “questionable scope of practice”, Botox is very much in the scope of practice when it is used for appropriate dental related procedures.
        Talking about the scope of practice,the scope of practice for dentist also include treating all age groups including children, eliminating the need of therapist altogether anyway.

  3. I think both runaway dental fees and the low rebates together make a huge problem for anyone trying to access dental care. Even after Medicare plus some form of rebate people are still out of pocket for dental, unless they’ve paid top dollar for their cover, which negates any savings. It’s a shame dental care is handled in this way, privatised and for profit, making it a luxury only some can afford. There’s no point in telling someone to “increase their cover” if they can’t afford that either. I for one am sick and tired of the regular letters from my health fund defending the latest fee increase. I’ve a file folder just for those letters. I was led to believe the younger you start your cover the less expensive the fees are, but guess what they will increase regularly from that day forward so you might as well wait.

  4. There are large discrepancies in dental fees quoted by different dentists for exactly the same work (e.g. a check-up (item 011) or x-ray (item 022) – which should not vary in minimal materials used, or technique). The excuse that ‘different methods/materials’ account for the fee differences is unconvincing and highlights the lack of national guidelines on dental treatment and diagnosis. Paying more also doesn’t mean getting the best dentist. Less qualified dentists who have never updated their techniques can charge higher fees than a more skilled dentist who follows the latest guidelines on preventative therapy.

  5. Consumer is a serial pest who parrots the same ignorant babble on any post anyone cares to listen to. Consumer has no idea what it costs to run a dental practice and does not have a mind to read others comments and consider their merit. Consumers next reply will no doubt be in rebuttal to this post claiming dentists are greedy and dishonest, possibly that lesser trained auxiliary staff should take their place, that dentists cause nothing but pain and anguish. You only have to read consumers posts to realize they are moments away from complaining about “another dentist” with their “files”. Consumer suggests dentistry should never have been “privatized” and that insurance companies are behind privatization of the dental industry for their profits. Listening to consumer is like listening to a flat earther claim they have thousands of followers around the globe. Their statements completely miss the point.

    1. Which consumer are you referring to with your wild allegations that “consumer suggested”? Who said “insurance companies are behind [the] privatization of the dental industry for their profits”? As a consumer, I have no interest in the [tax-deductable] costs of running a dental practice. I have however sought out and happily paid much higher fees for a highly competent, skilled and ethical dentist whom I trusted to do a very difficult tooth extraction and other work. In all cases I expect consistent, fair and reasonable fees between different dentists and ethical patient-centred scientific diagnosis and treatment plans. Get the point?

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