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Opposition leader hears from dentist on impact of budget cuts

29 May, 2015

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King have heard first hand from dentists when in Canberra about the impact on many children's oral health as a result of the proposed cuts to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) and public dental services.

Immediate past Vice President of the Australian Dental Association, Dr Carmelo Bonanno welcomed Shorten, King and local member for Canberra, the Hon. Gai Brodtmann to his practice to give them a first-hand experience of what the cuts will mean.

"Providing services to children from an early age will ensure that dental disease is halted early in its tracks and potentially save that child from treatment in the future," said Dr Bonanno.

"A strong foundation in dental hygiene is important for future oral health and that is why the Australian Dental Association has supported the scheme but the proposal to maintain rebates at last year's rates for another four years is putting dentists in a very difficult position and one where they may need to start charging a co-payment just to cover costs.  

"These rebates are already well below the mean fee charged by dentists.  Why would you reduce funding for the CDBS when most of the allocated funds were not already being fully expended?  If it was costing too much why not let those with private health insurance claim on their PHI fund and the CBDS monies pay any gap?"

The introduction of a co-payment may also result in more children seeking CDBS services from an already stretched public dental system where bulk-billing is compulsory.   

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association echoed the ADA's concerns.

"While we welcome the extension of access by the public sector to the CDBS, if the freeze on rebates results in increased co-payments in the private sector, that will put more pressure onto the public sector," said Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive Officer.

"The public sector already has to deal with the cutting of nearly 25 per cent of the funding allocated for the new National Partnership Agreement for adult services together with the cutting of the Voluntary Graduate Year Programs supporting 100 dentist and oral health therapist positions.

"As a result of collaboration between the public and private sectors, public sector waiting lists were reduced significantly under the previous National Partnership Agreement.  The cuts announced in the Budget will result in reduced access to dental services and put those undergoing improvements under threat.

"The ADA and the AHHA are jointly calling on Minister Ley to immediately release details of the proposed review and reform of dental services she announced prior to the Budget."

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