The cost of dental care has been in the news again following the release of the report by the Ipsos Social Research Unit, which showed that around 1.9 million people went without dental care in 2009 because they could not afford it.
The early results of the detailed survey of 2,700 Australians also revealed cost as a major reason for about 3.5 million Australians having avoided the dentist for more than four years.
Even private health cover was not enough to ensure people obtained dental care, the study found. A quarter of Sydney residents in that situation still did not go to the dentist because of out-of-pocket expenses. ”The cost issues are impacting not just lower-income households,” the report’s director, Ryan Williams, said. ”They are affecting middle-income households and pushing into the higher brackets as well.”
The head of oral pathology and oral medicine at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Hans Zoellner, said the figures were even worse when considering those people who did not immediately require dental care but who could not afford it if they did. ”The state government recognises half of people can’t afford dental care but the public system can’t cover the demand.”
Greens senator for Victoria, Dr Richard Di Natale, said the results were consistent with previous research on the issue and were a boost to his party’s campaigning for the establishment of ‘Denticare’, a universal dental insurance scheme.
Making dental care a bigger priority for the federal government was a key condition of the agreement struck between the Greens and Labor after the last election, he said.
“It was one of the key campaign priorities for us going into the last two elections. Because of this agreement we’ve now got a National Dental Advisory Council (as reported in Bite here) established, and we hope there will be significant investment in [dental health] in the next budget.
“I have to say that for me, it’s my number one priority in the Senate. If I can achieve anything in my time here, it would have to be introducing the universal dental scheme.”
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