People right across the Australian Capital Territory are smiling after the announcement of the Gillard Government’s $4 billion dental package, Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, and Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, said today.
“Over 28 000 kids will now be eligible for government-subsidised dental care, just like they’re eligible for Medicare funded visits to their GP,” Ms Brodtmann said.The six-year package announced today 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.
Ms Brodtmann said the package will address increasingly poor oral health amongst Australians, particularly people from low and middle income families.“For decades, Australians have used Medicare to visit the doctor when they’re sick,” Ms Brodtmann said.
“Unfortunately, millions of people don’t visit the dentist because they just can’t afford it – we know low income households have more than double the number of family members with untreated tooth decay compared with high income households.”
Andrew Leigh said “I’ve listened to my ACT colleague, former dentist Dr Chris Bourke, talk about dental care for years. He knows that targeted, government-subsidised assistance for those most in need is the best way to approach dental care. This policy does just that.”
“Although plenty of researchers have speculated about the relationship between dental health and earnings, few studies have been able to demonstrate causality. The poor are less likely to see a dentist, so it’s hard to know whether tooth decay causes poverty – or whether it is simply a marker of disadvantage,” said Dr Leigh.
“In any event, studies show that losing a tooth costs the typical woman 3 percent of her hourly wage – largely because of consumer and employer discrimination. Policies such as this one will help to address these types of situations,” said Dr Leigh.
More details on the Gillard Government’s $4 billion package are available from www.health.gov.au.