The release of the Dental Benefits Rules 2013 (the rules) yesterday by Minister Tanya Plibersek demonstrates that the consultation process undertaken by the Department of Health and Ageing was a 'Clayton's' consultation, claims the Australian Dental Association Inc (ADA).
"The ADA has repeatedly called on the Government to ensure that prevention and oral health promotion are key features of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme - Grow Up Smiling (GUS). The ADA sought the facilitation of a full range of dental treatments, and not just "basic" treatments. The release of the rules, in just over a week after the consultation process closed, demonstrates that these rules were written long before the consultation phase was completed, and no notice was taken of the comments and advice provided by stakeholders, such as the ADA, through the submission process," stated Dr Karin Alexander, ADA Federal President.
In its submission to the Department, the ADA advised the government that limiting treatments would compromise the level of care provided to children under the scheme. The ADA platform was that the entire schedule of dental services should be available under the GUS scheme so as to provide the same level of care as would be available in the general community.
"As designed, it is introducing two-tiered dentistry - one for GUS recipients with limited services and another for those that can access and receive clinically necessary treatment. This government will be known as the government that introduced 'poor dentistry for poor people' because this scheme as currently designed does just that," added Dr Alexander.
"At nearly 20% below a dentist's average fees, based on the ADA fees survey of July 2012, the GUS scheme will, at its introduction on 1 January 2014, offer rebates that will leave absolutely no alternative for dentists but to charge co-payments for services to deserving populations just to cover costs. While dentists have been underwriting services for veterans and their families, the goodwill of the profession is being stretched to crisis point. The dental profession cannot and should not be obligated to provide services at a loss."
The rules also provide details of the administrative arrangements to be followed under the GUS scheme which the ADA will be reviewing in great detail. Dr Alexander concluded: "The administrative requirements as detailed in the rules will require careful scrutiny. We will not be encouraging our members to become involved in this scheme until we are confident that there has been adequate education of the profession and consultation to ensure that there are no unwarranted administrative requirements."