Mixed news in federal government’s new funding arrangements for public dental

Released on 6th December 2016

cohealth Chief Executive Lyn Morgain today welcomed news that the Commonwealth would continue to fund the Medicare Child Dental Benefits Scheme, whilst also expressing serious concerns that adults living in metropolitan areas and regional centres would be much worse off under the new funding arrangements announced.

“Confirmation of continued Commonwealth funding for the Medicare Child Dental Benefits Scheme beyond the 31st of December 2016 is extremely welcome,” said Ms Morgain.

“Last year, the Scheme enabled us to provide essential dental services to more than 3000 vulnerable Victorian children and today’s announcement means that public dental services such as ours will be able to continue meeting demand.”

However Ms Morgain said the picture was bleak for adults who needed to access dental care through the public system – such as carers, single parents, people with a disability, victims of family violence and those experiencing unemployment.

Under the arrangements announced on yesterday, the Commonwealth will continue to provide funding towards the provision of public dental health services to adults through a new National Partnership Agreement with the States and Territories. However the total amount of funding offered is significantly less than in previous years – just $320m over the three years of the agreement, compared with $155m in the last financial year alone, and the $1.3b over four years committed in the National Partnership Agreement just expired.

“Last year, cohealth received $1.7m in Commonwealth funding, enabling us to provide services to an additional 5000 adults. Should this amount reduce, we will be unable to provide as many services, resulting in further blow outs to already lengthy wait times, and many adults going without good dental care,” said Ms Morgain.

In addition to the negative impact on the cornerstones of good health such as nutrition and sleep, poor oral health is associated with a range of other health conditions – such as diabetes – which if left unmanaged can have long term health costs. In fact, local hospital data suggests that dental conditions are the highest cause of potentially preventable hospital admissions in people under 24.

“This is about dignity,” said Ms Morgain. “A lack of access to dental care can not only lead to further medical problems, but it can present barriers to employment, housing and social participation. cohealth urges the Federal Government to reconsider its drastic cuts to public dental funding for adults, and calls on the State and Territory governments to advocate strongly for the necessary funding.”

Media contact: Aram Hosie 0403 317 618

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