Locals to benefit from historic dental package

Thousands of people in the Illawarra will find it easier after the announcement of the Gillard Government’s $4 billion dental package, Member for Throsby Stephen Jones said today.

“More than 52,000 kids and 28,000 families will now be eligible for government-subsidised dental care, just like they’re eligible for Medicare funded visits to their GP”, said Mr Jones.

Under the package, the Gillard Government will also provide dental services to more than one million low income adults and Australians in rural and remote areas, focusing especially on pensioners.

The six-year package announced today includes:

• $2.7 billion for around 3.4 million Australian children who will be eligible for subsidised dental care;

• $1.3 billion for around 1.4 million additional services for adults on low incomes, including pensioners and concession card holders, and those with special needs; who will have better access to dental care in the public system; and

• $225 million for dental capital and workforce will be provided to support expanded services for people living in outer metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas.

Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird said the package will address increasingly poor oral health amongst Australians, particularly people from low and middle income families.

“For decades, Australians have used Medicare to visit the doctor when they’re sick,” Ms Bird said.

“Unfortunately, millions of people don’t visit the dentist because they just can’t afford it – we know low income households have more than double the number of family members with untreated tooth decay compared with high income households.”

“That’s why Labor believes we have a responsibility to ensure people who are least able to afford to go the dentist, particularly children, should have access to government-subsidised dental care.”

The $4 billion package is in addition to the $515 million announced in the 2012-13 Budget, which included a blitz on public dental waiting lists, additional dental training and support for people in rural and remote areas.

Children from the aged two to 17 in Family Tax Benefit Part A-eligible families will be entitled to subsidised basic dental treatment, capped at $1,000 per child over a two-year period. This $2.7 billion initiative aims to address dental decay in children, which has been increasing since the 1990s.

“This investment in our children’s dental care now is an investment in their overall dental health as adults”, said Mr Jones.

“It will ensure that the oral health of each generation is better than the last.”

The Gillard Government is providing $1.3 billion to states and territories under a National Partnership Agreement to expand public dental services for low income adults. This funding will depend on the states and territories at least maintaining their current level of dental care services.

And $225 million in funding for dental infrastructure in outer metropolitan, rural and regional areas will assist more Australians, regardless of their location, in gaining access to high quality dental care.