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Pressure grows for dental scheme


Mark Metherell is health correspondent

View more articles from Mark Metherell

A week before the budget, the government faces more pressure to expand public dental services and the fallout from an unprecedented outcry from dentists over their treatment by Medicare.

The state of public dental services has reached a ''horrifying'' state, the Consumer Health Forum says in a public campaign it launches today pressing for government action on the 650,000 people with dental problems who wait an average two years to get treated.

It remains unclear whether the government will meet the Greens' demand to honour its pledge to make a start in next week's budget to establish a ''Denticare'' scheme.

The campaign comes as government officials face a grilling at a Senate committee inquiry today into the pursuit of dentists accused of failing to meet documentation requirements in claiming payments under the Medicare chronic disease dental scheme.

More than 200 dentists are estimated to have written to the inquiry to strongly criticise being targeted for what they say is unjustified demands for repayment of money for failing to file the required paperwork for services which they had carried out correctly and in good faith.

The government has estimated that more than $21.6 million has been claimed outside the rules, with 65 dentists found to be non-compliant.

But the government has received just $259,427 back from dentists who have received demands for repayment.

The Minister for Human Services, Kim Carr, would not comment yesterday on what measures the government would take to recover the money, saying it was inappropriate to comment before the Senate committee hearing.

Shane Fryer, the president of the Australian Dental Association, said he had never seen such widespread criticism from dentists of a government measure.

The reaction, he said, was likely to weaken dentists' confidence in any future government dental schemes.

The chief executive of the Consumers Health Forum, Carol Bennett, said it was ''appalling'' that only 11 per cent of people actually received any dental treatment in any one year.

Under the forum's proposals, dental hygienists and therapists would be able to expand their scope of practice.

There would be prioritised access to dental treatments through targeted schemes for those who needed it most.

2 comments so far

  • Dental care is for the rich... end of story.

    After being forced onto a pension to look after my wife trips to the dentist were just out of reach. The public scheme has a totally unacceptable wait time and by the time you get in a minor cavity ends up being an infected extraction.

    Maybe the Goverment could look at the other end and make it so a decent toothbrush is not $7 for $0.25 worth of plastic?

    Dean White
    Date and time
    May 01, 2012, 4:38PM
    • I have severe dental problems which came from being left without parents from the age of 16. Not many teenagers will take themselves to the dentist. As a result, as a student and predominantly low income earner for the several years that followed I was unable to get sufficient dental treatment. Now in my twenties I have a stable fairly well paying job so I am ineligible for a health care card, getting on a waiting list or even having dental students treat me. The problem is that the damage has already been done. I have spent $5000 already and simply cannot afford the remaining twelve to fifteen thousand dollars I need to be treated by the greedy dental system in Australia. Low income reform will not help me as I am seemingly being punished for being in a limbo between someone who has had no money and someone who has a lot. I am a taxpaying australian and I have been thoroughly let down by our healthcare system who now see me as another drug seeking deadbeat when I turn up at the hospital with unbearable pain. The standard response is "get them pulled out". I've had one pulled out and that was $350, even if i wanted false teeth (which I do not) it will still be a couple of thousand dollars more than I have.

      Date and time
      May 01, 2012, 9:25PM

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