Government moves to end dentists' uncertainty
The Australian government has introduced the Dental Benefits Legislation Amendment Bill 2014.
The Abbott government introduced legislation to bring an end to the Rudd-Gillard Labor governments' vindictive pursuit of dentists who treated more than a million Australians under the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme (CDDS), according to Health Minister Peter Dutton.
Dutton told parliament the Dental Benefits Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 would relieve the uncertainty for dentists, who had faced demands for repayment of Medicare Benefits paid to them, by allowing the Chief Executive Medicare to waive debts of those dentists.
Dutton said the dentists had done nothing more than make minor paperwork errors when treating patients under the CDDS.
"Labor had an ideological opposition to this scheme," Dutton said.
"The then government sought to use the dentists' technical oversights as a means of discrediting the scheme - it was a shameful act.
"Labor's desire was simply to destroy a scheme helping Australians solely because its architect was Tony Abbott. In so doing they sought full recovery of all benefits paid to these dentists – an excessively severe punishment that caused huge anxiety. Dentists were simply used by Labor as political pawns."
Dutton said the CDDS set up in 2007 by the current Prime Minister and then Health Minister Tony Abbott was the biggest ever investment into dental care with concession card holders representing 80 per cent of people receiving treatment.
"When Labor finally admitted its pursuit of dentists, who treated these patients in good faith, for repayment of the Medicare Benefits they'd received; it set up a tortuous process to resolve the situation.
"This Bill will provide a better process for waiving those debts."
Dutton said the amendment would not excuse dentists who did not comply with other legal requirements of the CDDS or who committed fraud.
The Bill also introduces changes to Labor's Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) to bring the compliance framework for the CDBS into alignment with Medicare and allowing the Independent Professional Services Review authority to examine suspected cases of inappropriate practice.