The opposition health spokesman, Peter Dutton, said the government ”did not want to accept even relatively minor changes … It was politically convenient for the government to say this measure was being blocked”.
The stand-off over the dental scheme has centred on the government’s refusal to introduce its program until the opposition agreed to axe an increasingly popular Medicare dental scheme which funds up to $4250 in dental treatment for patients who have an associated chronic medical condition.
More than 400,000 patients have received treatments under the Medicare dental scheme, which has been most popular in NSW – with about 250,000 recipients – and is gaining in popularity in Victoria where about 100,000 have benefited.
However, the Medicare dental scheme, introduced by the previous government, has been associated with allegations of rorting and Medicare is investigating claims involving about 50 dentists who may have undertaken and been paid for work not eligible for the Medicare payment .
Labor’s more modest scheme, which would have cost less than half the $700 million so far paid out for the Medicare program, would have reached more people but would not have provided the treatment many would need, the Association for the Promotion of Oral Health has said.
The talks aimed at a compromise foundered over the opposition’s bid to ease the government proposal for a clamp on high-end dental services.