Health minister Sussan Ley just announced a new dental scheme for children and low-income earners across the nation. The new scheme offers $2.1bn to replace the Child Dental Benefits Scheme and the National Partnership Agreement for adults. But dentists are not happy, telling weekend newspapers the scheme is nothing but “smoke and mirrors” that will actually cut $200m annually from dental health care and see public wait lists continue to grow.
The new Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme (caPDS), is supposed to provide in excess of 10 million Australians with access to dental health care, including all those under the age of 18 or with health care cards.
The scheme, Ley said, would be part of a $5bn investment over four years for the improvement of dental outcomes.
“We are significantly increasing Commonwealth investment in frontline public dental services and we expect the result to be an extra 600,000 public dental patients treated every year as a direct result,” said Ley.
However, the Australian Dental Association said the scheme actually cuts current funding, disguising it with the new policy.
“It’s smoke and mirrors,” said ADA President Rick Olive about the caPDS. “Let’s not be fooled. This is a measure that just won’t deliver.
“Let’s see this for what it is. This is a budget saving resulting in a reduction of about $200 million per annum for dental care,” he said.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten was equally disparaging of the new policy. “This is the equivalent of cutting Medicare and flooding the emergency wards of Australian hospitals with more patients,” he said. “The idea that you improve the dental health of children by cutting $1 billion and making all the children of Australia have to go through public waiting lists to get dental care support from the government is a dental care hoax.”
The government is set to pass the new scheme by the Senate during budget week (in May) the final sitting session before the 2 July double dissolution.