The Australian Dental Association (ADA) federal president Rick Olive has come out swinging against the government’s proposed chop to the popular dental scheme targeting low- to middle-income family children.
Dr Olive said: “I am very concerned that the Children Dental Benefit Schedule [the scheme] is facing the axe.
“What I have to say to people who are eligible, and if they haven’t been to the dentist they better go and make an appointment with their dentist, because likely from July 1 the scheme won’t exist,” he said to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The $2.7 billion dental program has provided over a million Australian children with free dental care, many of whom have never seen a dentist before. Many of these children are presenting with decayed teeth requiring holes and extractions, dentists have said.
While the figures fall shy of the anticipated three million children it was proposed would use the means-tested scheme, nearly all of the children seen under the scheme had been bulk-billed, and 80 per cent were treated by private dentists.
Health minister Sussan Ley explained to a meeting of healthcare and dental groups last week that the scheme was not an effective use of funds, which foreshadowed changes set to be made in the next budget.
An auditor-general’s report has found 30 per cent of eligible children had utilised the scheme since it was brought in by the Coalition in 2014, and was reported as a “significant underspend of allocated funding”. The Health department was urged to review the low uptake, which has been blamed largely on the government’s lack of promotion.