Dentists caught in ‘witch hunt’

Health Minister Nicola Roxon: seeking to vilify dentists.

The Federal opposition has thrown its weight behind a campaign to publicise Medicare’s pursuit of dentists who have to repay benefits received under the Medicare Chronic Diseases Dental Scheme. Yesterday Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton visited the Brunswick Family Dental Clinic in Melbourne where dentist Dr Helen Arabatzis has been presented with a claim for repayment of more than $700,000 by Medicare.

Dr Arabatzis has said the claim could force closure of the practice which includes eight dentists and a staff of more than 20.

Meanwhile in Tasmania, a dentist facing a $24,000 bill from Medicare has told the ABC she is the target of a witch hunt. Dr Wilma Johnson has been ordered to repay benefits she received under the Medicare Chronic Diseases Dental Scheme.

She said four of her Tasmanian colleagues are in a similar position, simply because of minor paperwork errors. Dr Johnson says Medicare has assessed her errors as ‘inconsequential’.

The Shadow Minister for Health Peter Dutton said the Government’s actions could force the closure of vital dental practices and the loss of services to some of the most in-need patients.

Mr Dutton accused Health Minister Nicola Roxon of seeking to vilify dentists because of Labor’s ideological determination to close the Medicare Chronic Disease Scheme.

Dr Shane Fryer, President of the ADA, has previously said that the Association has had serious concerns with the overzealous manner in which Medicare audits have been conducted on dentists who have provided care to patients within the Scheme.

“The ADA feels that the Government should be instructing the Medicare auditors to stop pursuing dentists who have provided quality care to patients within the Scheme but who have made errors in completing some of the administrative requirements of the Scheme,” Dr Fryer says.

The ADA states that aggressive action taken over absent paperwork and the financial claims Medicare has lodged against a number of dentists has placed dentists under financial strain and potentially the threat of bankruptcy, despite patients receiving the care they needed.


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  1. The Medicare Chronic Diseases Dental Scheme had enormous potential to do good, however that has not been the case. Aboriginal people in remote places such as Arnhem Land and the Kimberley, are generally speaking,( due to their massive chronic illness incidence) entitled to this treatment that could be delivered at no cost to the patient, if there were the doctors to do the referrals, and dental facilities to enable the work to be done. However, the cost of transport to these places is prohibitive, and allowances need to be made for recovery of travel and accommodation expenses.
    We hope that the next legislation will overcome these issues, and enable willing and enthusiastic clinicians to help lift these Australian citizens, out of their 4th World state of dental despair.

  2. It is a shame to see the Medicare Chronic Disease Scheme given to those not in need when there are so any that are. How is it that general practitioners can give a referral for Medicare services to a patient whose chronic illness is “eczma” and since when is “smoking” considered a chronic disease. These are just some of the referrals I have seen refferred to dental practices. Perhaps instead of crucifying the dentist, take a look at those sending the referrals. And as mentioned by Lirra Djama, we have those in remote areas of Australia completely forgotten about who are more immunocompromised than the patients who have access to dentists under the scheme. Isn’t it time to close the gap…?

  3. The Medicare auditors are required to demonstrate that administrative procedures will minimise rorting. They, obviously, cannot assess the quality of care provided. Without such assessment how is it possible to “stop pursuing dentists who provide quality care” ? The ADA stance on funding being targetted to low income earners, seemingly, fails to require monitoring and such assessment of quality of care.

  4. The scheme also leaves out all those who have medical conditions or disabilities whose treatment must be completed under general anaestheisa in a hospital or day surgery facility even if the patient has private hospital insurance or are prepared to pay the facility fee for private care. Less people on the public waiting list means shorter waiting times for those who remain. Who is rorting who in our health care system? It seems that those who are least able to access care are still at the back of the pack.


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