Budget 'sinks teeth' into dental reform

13 May, 2015

The Abbott Government will seek to undertake much-needed practical reform of the nation's fragmented dental system to ensure Australians get seamless access to the services they need, no matter who provides them.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced the Abbott Government intended to add dental to its reform agenda for 2015/16, with more-than $200 million in funding for state and territory services to be included in Tuesday's Budget to allow for reform work to be undertaken over the next 12 months.

Unlike Medicare, which the Commonwealth primarily funds, responsibility for funding dental services is spread across the Federal Government, the states and territories and public and private health providers.

Ley said the Reforming the Federation White Paper, which was currently underway, presented a unique opportunity for the Government to work with the states and territories, dentists, consumers and public and private health providers to deliver "greater co-ordination with less duplication".

"Good dental hygiene has long been recognised as an essential part of ensuring Australians remain happy and healthy," Ley said.

"Failing to look after our teeth not only risks devastating impacts on the health of our mouth – which is an essential part of everyday life – but our entire body.

"It also places a significant burden on the health system across the board and we therefore need to ensure every dollar invested delivers the best health outcomes possible.

"However this can be difficult to maintain when services are spread across multiple delivery and funding models and the risk of inefficiencies and service gaps inevitably increases.

"Real progress has been made in recent years towards improving access to dental services and the Abbott Government is determined to ensure Australia continues to improve as a nation, which is why we must take hold of this once-in-a-generation opportunity for constructive reform.

"We also want to see dental incorporated into our plans for a better integrated health system where services work in co-operation, not isolation."

Ley said the Abbott Government would offer the states and territories a new 12 month National Partnership Agreement on Dental, worth a total of about $155 million in 2015/16.

Ley said this would be coupled with continued access to the Commonwealth child dental benefit scheme for states and territories in 2015/16, which would increase the total support package to over $200 million to provide funding certainty while reform was worked on over the next 12 months.

Ley said the offer was subject to the agreement of the states and territories. Ley said the Government would announce further details about the reform process in 2015/16.