Federal government contributions to dental care in Australia have significantly increased but it has mostly filled the mouths of the privately insured.
Federal government contributions to dental care in Australia have increased by over 800% over a 10 year period so that in 2001-02 the government spent $337M on dental care. Yet $262M of this money goes in payouts to private insurance holders for dental care that they have claimed against their insurance, according to calculations provided by Professor John Spencer of Adelaide in a recent AHPI monograph.
Simultaneously, the federal government has cut its $100M a year contribution to dental care programs designed to reach less affluent people and those in special need.
State governments have not entirely ‘filled the black hole’ left by the transfer of federal funds. People with intellectual handicap, or poverty, wait years for much needed dental care. All health ministers agreed a policy for dental health in July 2004. Time now to act on it!
The poor state of public dental health is now also to be examined by a NSW parliamentary inquiry.
Professor Stephen Leeder
Director, Australian Health Policy Institute
at The University of Sydney
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