National dental care services threatened by funding uncertainty
Public dental services and patients across the country remain in the dark about ongoing access to funding through the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.
The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS), introduced in January 2014, provides financial support for basic dental services for children aged between 2 and 17 years who receive, or whose family or carer receives selected government benefits such as Family Tax Benefit Part A.
Approximately 3.4 million children are eligible for the scheme which provides benefits of up to $1000 over two years.
Unknown future beyond 2014
The CDBS benefit can currently be used to access oral health care in either the private or public sector, however in line with Schedule 2 of the Dental Benefits Rules 2013, access through public sector services will cease from 31 December 2014.
"When the Child Dental Benefits Schedule was introduced in January, it was accepted that there would effectively be a twelve month trial in the public sector," said AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.
"We are now a month away from the scheme being withdrawn from the public sector and there is no indication of how the trial will be evaluated and what the situation will be in 2015.
"States and territories have been required to maintain their existing effort in terms of providing dental services so the revenue from the CDBS has gone to expanding and enhancing services.
"The future of those improved services is clearly under threat.
"In order to support continued improvements in the oral health of vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians it is essential that the Government commits to the full implementation of the National Partnership for Adult Public Dental Services and to ongoing access to the CDBS through the public sector."
Tom Symondson, Acting Chief Executive of the Victorian Healthcare Association said the tentative future of the CDBS, along with the long-promised Adult Dental NPA, threatened to be a "damaging double-whammy to public dental services".
"In order to support continued improvements in the oral health of vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians it is essential that the (Health) Minister commits to the full implementation of the National Partnership for Adult Public Dental Services and to ongoing access to the CDBS through the public sector," Symondson said.