Just a third of the 2.9 million children eligible for government fund rebates have accessed dental care, with two million children missing out on $1000 of entitlement to dental care every two years, with the private dentist of their choice, with 97% of dentist agreeing to provide bulk billed service. The funds have been available since 2014, but with little promotion and two government reviews to investigate the reason for the shortfall as why so few children have accessed the program. Parents are informed about eligibility once a year in January within a general mail out, known as the current eligibility notification, which is thought to not provide readily recognisable advice of an entitlement.
The program recently survived the government trying to shut down the funding to save money in the 2016 budget, following rejections from Parliament. A new scheme had been proposed with 30% less funding, but covering 7 million more people, including the cost of teenage braces. The plan was opposed by the Australian Dental Association because it was not means tested, and was realistically providing $42 of dental care for each eligible person per year. Late last year the government reduced the cap to $700 after an effort to axe the program entirely, which was blocked by the Senate, but has now been signed into law, and increased back to the original cap of $1000. The scheme is for children aged two to 17 years of age, for those in families that qualify for Family Tax Benefit A, with the benefits available for basic dental services including check ups, x-rays, fillings, extractions and root canals (braces are not covered).
Seven in 10 kids under the age of nine have active dental decay and 30 000 children a year are hospitalised for urgent dental treatment under general anaesthetic, the majority of which are preventible, and where there is funding to protect children's teeth. Our next generation should have the right to the best care possible and all measures to protect their teeth, and allow healthy life habits.
(source: Herald Sun 12 February 2017)