The Australian Greens have secured almost $5 billion to provide millions of children with Medicare funded dentistry and to improve access to public dental care for low income adults and those in rural and remote areas.
"This package, the most significant reform of dental care in our nation's history, will put a smile on the faces of millions of Australians," said Greens health spokesperson, Senator Richard Di Natale.
"The Dental Health Reform package honours the Greens' agreement with Labor and shows how power-sharing governments can make a real difference to people's lives when parliamentarians work together constructively."
Under the Dental Health Reform package announced today:
- Around 3.4 million Australian children will be eligible for Medicare funded dental care;
- Adults on low incomes, pensioners, other concession card holders, and those with special needs, will have better access to dental health care; and
- Dental services - both in terms of capital and workforce - will also be expanded for people living in outer metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas.
"For too long we've treated the mouth as separate from the rest of the body, which has resulted in an oral health crisis in this country. One in three people are unable to afford to see a dentist, but all that is about to change," said Dr Di Natale.
"Today we have laid the foundations for Denticare, with 3.4 million Australian children now eligible for Medicare funded dental treatment. Soon, taking your kid to the dentist will be just as easy as taking them to the GP."
Children aged up to 17 years from Family Tax Benefit-A eligible families will be eligible for subsidised dental treatment, capped at $1,000 per child over a two-year period. This $2.7 billion initiative aims to address dental decay in children, which has been increasing since the 1990s.
"If you're an adult with a concession card, you will now have much better access to public dental care because this massive injection of federal funding will slash waiting lists."
As part of the package, the Greens have secured $1.3 billion to states and territories under a National Partnership Agreement to massively expand public dental services. Millions of low income adults will benefit from this measure.
"Funding for dental infrastructure around the country means that if you're living in rural and regional Australia you will get much better access to dental care."
$226 million in funding for dental infrastructure in outer metropolitan, rural and regional areas will mean more dental chairs and more dentists in areas where access is poor.
The package builds on measures announced in the 2012-13 Budget, totalling $515.3 million over four years to cut dental waiting lists, support people in rural and remote areas, train more dentists, and place them in areas of greatest need.
The Dental Health Reform package will replace the Medicare Teen Dental Plan and the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, and is designed to achieve maximum impact by focusing on those in most need of dental health care.
"This landmark package would not have happened without the voters of Melbourne and the 1.6 million people around Australia who voted Green in the senate at the last election."
The Greens have agreed to closure of the CDDS to all patients within 3 months to allow existing users of the scheme to finish their current course of treatment. Increased funding to public dental services will allow low income people with chronic diseases to continue to receive timely care.
Legislation to enshrine these new reforms will be introduced, with passage expected this sitting session.
"This reform not only means millions of Australians will now be able to afford dental care, but it also lays the foundation for universal dental care in the years to come, building a healthier nation for all of us."