Children and low income earners will be eligible for subsidised dental care after the government today announced a $4.1 billion dental health reform package.
The package, announced in Sydney this morning, includes:
- $2.7 billion for around 3.4 million Australian children who will be eligible for subsidised dental care;
- $1.3 billion for around 1.4 million additional services for adults on low incomes, including pensioners and concession card holders, and those with special needs; who will have better access to dental care in the public system; and
- $225 million for dental capital and workforce will be provided to support expanded services for people living in outer metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas.
The new funding comes in addition to $515 million announced in the 2012/2013 budget.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the package will allow those eligible to the funding to go to the local dentist just like they go to the doctor.
The scheme is focussed on preventative dental health, not just emergency care.
"While Medicare and free hospital care have been a basic right for Australians for decades, millions of people in this country still go without adequate dental care," Ms Plibersek said.
“Labor believes we have a responsibility to ensure Australians who are least able to afford to go the dentist, and particularly children, should be given access to government-subsidised oral health care.”
Under the scheme, children aged two to 17 in Family Tax Benefit Part-A families will be eligible for subsidised basic dental treatment, capped at $1,000 over two years.
The public dental scheme will get a $1.3 billion funding injection over four years and $225 million will be spent on dental services in rural and regional Australia, to tackle workforce issues and provide extra services for indigenous people.
Ms Plibersek highlighted a rise in the incidence of tooth cavities in children since the 1990s.
“We also know that low income households have more than double the number of family members with untreated tooth decay compared with high income households," she said.
The scheme comes into effect in January 2014 for children and July 2014 for adults.