The CDDS dental scheme is great for those with medical problems impacting on teething problems, Diabetes mellitus for example. It is to be hoped that this plan is not discontinued.
Dentists reluctant to back fresh dental plan
Some dentists have signalled their reluctance to support the Federal Government’s new plan to address public dental waiting lists, casting doubt over the new $500 million dental scheme.
The scheme is one of a number of budget pledges made over the weekend aimed at sweetening what Treasurer Wayne Swan says will be his toughest budget yet.
The package is aimed at encouraging more pro-bono work and attracting dentists to regional areas to fast track 400,000 patients on waiting lists.
However, some dentists say the Government has a tough job of winning back dentists’ trust after they were penalised under the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme (CDDS).
The CDDS was introduced by the Howard government but in 2010 the Labor Government launched an audit into the scheme to investigate dentists’ compliance, which led to them having to pay back millions of dollars.
Wilma Johnson was working in a practice in southern Tasmania when she was forced to repay thousands of dollars to Medicare because of a paperwork error.
“That branch practice is now shut as a result of this debacle,” she said.
“If I can get into that much trouble over a bit of missing paperwork, a piece of paper that I didn’t know I need to send, how many other things can go wrong? It’s not worth the risk.”
Melbourne dentist Dr Dragan Antolos was caught out during an audit of the CDDS and now owes $90,000.
“This current saga with the CDDS has created tensions that really need to be resolved,” he said.
“I think this is a really major issue affecting the profession. There needs to be a lot of bridges that need to be mended.”
Australian Dental Association president Shane Fryer says dentists are a little concerned about future dental programs.
“The number of dentists that are or even dental practitioners that are coming into the workforce now is going up significantly so there aren’t really capacity constraints within the profession to deal with all of this additional work,” he said.
“It is a matter of implementing it in appropriate structured manner, utilising a public/private partnership relationship and spreading the treatment across both areas.”
Dr Fryer says the Government will need to engage in appropriate consultation with dentists over the proposed scheme.
Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton has defended the CDDS and says he is concerned about how the new program will be funded.
“I am worried that the Government is going to rip money out of the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme,” he said.
“If the Government is going to pull money out of that dental scheme to put it into another one then there is a question mark over that.
“The other thing of course is that dentists aren’t sitting around with spare time on their hands with vacant chairs, and if the Government is going to drive the price of dental up for mums and dads and for other Australians because we just don’t have enough dentists, then that is another concern.”
A Senate committee investigating problems with the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme will deliver its report this week.
Australian dental care at a glance:
- In 1994, the Labor Keating government introduced state funding for services targeting those on low incomes. The Howard government abolished that program, but introduced the chronic disease dental scheme (CDDS) to cap Medicare benefits for those patients with chronic conditions.
- Rudd’s Labor government introduced a means-tested plan funding annual check-ups for teenagers, as well as promising an expanded range of public dental services.
- These schemes are still in existence, but the Greens are calling for a universal dental care scheme focusing on vulnerable Australians and the Opposition is indicating it will introduce an extended CDDS.
- In February, Julia Gillard refused to commit to further funding of dental services, despite it being part of a deal Labor reached with the Greens to secure support for a minority government.
- One-third of all Australians cannot afford dental care, and some people have been on waiting lists for treatment for up to five years.
- Just over half of all Australians have some level of private dental health cover.
Sources: AIHW; Dental Reform: an overview of universal dental schemes
Topics:health-policy, health, healthcare-facilities, australia