Can we get affordable dental care for older Australians?

Font Size:

Australia should introduce a Medicare-style universal insurance scheme for primary dental care to ensure all Australians can go to the dentist when they need to, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

The Grattan Institute’s Filling the gap report calculates the scheme would cost an extra $5.6 billion a year and suggests it could be paid for in part by a rise in the Medicare levy, and recommends it be phased in over 10 years.

The report follows a $5.8 billion election policy announcement by Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who promised to provide Medicare-funded dental care for every child, aged pensioner, full-benefit recipient and concession card holder.

“Your health shouldn’t be determined by your postcode or bank balance,” said Dr Di Natale, a former GP and public health specialist. 

“Untreated dental disease can dramatically impact on a person’s health and quality of life, and it is the most vulnerable people in our community who are impacted the most.”

According to the Grattan Institute, about two million Australians who required dental care in the past year either didn’t get it or delayed getting it because of the cost. And it is the poor and disadvantaged who are most likely to miss out on care, because most spending on dental care comes straight out of the pockets of patients.

“Millions of Australians have delayed visiting the dentist because of high out-of-pocket costs, which is why the Greens have long been champions of Medicare-funded dental care,” Dr Di Natale explained.

“In 2012, the Greens secured Medicare-funded dental care for 3.4 million children and now we commit to build on that foundation.

“The Coalition has never supported Medicare, but if the Labor party really support affordable universal healthcare, Bill Shorten should commit to working with the Greens to bring dental into Medicare,” Dr Di Natale said.

About a quarter of Australian adults say they avoid some foods because of the condition of their teeth; for low-income people, it’s about a third. Low-income people are more likely to have periodontal disease, untreated tooth decay, or missing teeth.

The Grattan Institute’s health program director Stephen Duckett says that it is a problem that needs addressing.

“When Australians need to see a GP, Medicare picks up all or most of the bill. But when they need to see a dentist, Australians are on their own,” Dr Duckett said.

Bad oral health has painful and costly consequences.

Oral health conditions can contribute to other health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

Most oral health conditions are preventable, yet people often end up going to a GP or hospital emergency department to be treated for conditions that could have been arrested with earlier care.

“Existing public dental schemes are inadequate, uncoordinated and inequitable across states and territories,” Dr Duckett explained.

“Most states have waiting lists of well over a year for public dental care – and if people need to wait a year for care, their conditions are only going to get worse.

“The Commonwealth Government should announce that it will take responsibility for funding primary dental care – just as it takes responsibility for primary medical care.

“There’s no compelling medical, economic, legal or logical reason to treat the mouth so differently from the rest of the body,” Dr Duckett said.

Do you think the Australian government should fund a universal dental care scheme? What do you think of the Greens’ policy? Would this proposal encourage you to vote for the Greens at the next election?

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

Join
By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy

RELATED LINKS

Beware the potential pain in dental tourism

Combining sun, surf and smiles sounds alluring, but consider the risks.

Increasing number of older Australians dying from accidental overdoses

Over three quarters of overdose deaths last year involved pharmaceutical opioids.

Two in three Aussies delaying dental visits due to costs

Two in five Australians (39 per cent) did not visit a dentist at all last year.

Written by Ben

94 Comments

Total Comments: 94
  1. 0
    0

    should have introduced “Denticare” years ago – dentists are ridiculously expensive even with private cover – there should be a limit as to what they can charge so everyone can afford to go when needed. Public Dental services should be increased and made more available to everyone with minimal waiting times

    • 0
      0

      You may have heard that Morrison is giving $24 million for surveillance systems for mosques. We have 24,000 Australians sleeping rough with winter coming on and I fail to understand why (well funded) mosques cannot buy their own surveillance systems. I mean what did it cost to build these opulent places of worship?
      Money for dentistry services for retirees? Funny.

    • 0
      0

      There’s an unspoken agenda.

      An election is looming: votes needed.

    • 0
      0

      Yes. And betrayal of those who need help.

    • 0
      0

      What a disgrace! $24 million to protect people of a religion and culture that has never fitted well with our way of life in Australia and who have both threatened and instigated violence in many parts of the world, and created unprecedented social division. Why the religious favouritism? Why not $24 million to protect Catholic priests as well? Or Jews – who seem to have always suffered discrimination? Or Mormons or Scientologists?

      I have no issue with Muslims pursuing their religion and building their mosques, but we don’t owe them special security any more than we owe it to any other religion. They are not the only people who have suffered terrorism and they are certainly not the only people at risk.

      Spend it on the homeless or providing better opportunities for children in poverty-stricken families.

    • 0
      0

      Older and Wiser, remember NZ, have you forgotten already? No hate speech, no intolerances that can contribute to nutters hitting out at any group. The government responds to threats that we never hear about. We all have to start to monitor our speech and even our thoughts that lead to racist or hate speech.

    • 0
      0

      The problem, Paddington, is that all this ‘no hate speech’ is really ‘no freedom of speech or thought’. If we don’t like what’s happening in our country, we are told to shove our opinions where the sun doesn’t shine, because the shit-heads in power and the lame-brained sheep who follow demand that anyone who isn’t happy with change be silenced. That’s the real cause of the problem.

      It’s not ‘hate speech’ to say that we want to retain our own traditions and way of life. It’s not ‘hate speech’ to say that we should control immigration. It’s not ‘hate speech’ to state FACTS about what has happened in nations that haven’t controlled immigration.

      I haven’t forgotten NZ. I haven’t forgotten 9-11 either, or the World Trade Centre bombing, or the Philippines Air Flight 8969, or the Khobar Towers bombing, or the US Embassy bombings in Dar es Saalam and Nairobi, or the Bali bombings in Oct 2002, or the Madrid train bombings or the Besian school hostage crisis… I could list dozens more. Just go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Islamist_terrorist_attacks and browse the list there. It’s a VERY long list. So who should we be protecting?

      Most terrorist attack victims are Muslim, according to reports I’ve read. But equally, most terrorist attacks happen in Muslim-majority countries. Did you know there were terrorist attacks in Syria the same day as Christchurch and in Somalia the day before? In Somalia, where as many as 98.9 percent of people are Muslim, terrorists carried out over 359 attacks in 2016 alone. Do we want to import this kind of disruption and terror into Australia? Really?

      The solution isn’t to jam ‘love and acceptance’ down our throats while making us pay for exclusive protection for Muslims. The solution is to deal with FACTS objectively, and to recognize that wanting to protect our people, our culture, and our way of life does not equate to ‘hating’.

      I have nothing against any other race or religion. But I do object to a mayor in central NSW banning school socials and trying to compel girls to wear face coverings, and lobbying for the introduction of Sharia law. I do object to a Muslim neighbour wearing total black body and face covering into a school and terrifying children, and claiming the right to wear the same attire into banks and government buildings. How do we know what’s under that black garb? Our safety is at risk. I was required to remove my sunglasses in a bank ‘for security reasons’, yet this woman is allowed to enter the bank with nothing of her visible except part of her eyes – because to ban her is ‘discriminatory’. I do object to an entire Muslim community in Sydney on welfare entering into elaborate child-swapping arrangements to claim childcare benefits and men permitted to have multiple wives – all on welfare at taxpayer expense. I do object to Muslims in my community saying they will blow up the neighbourhood if the council rejects their application to build a Mosque on land that has an environmental protection order over it.

      It’s time for this nation to wake up. Welcome immigrants for sure. Some of my best friends are immigrant and have made a wonderful contribution to this nation. I have some beautiful Muslim friends. But control immigration to preserve our way of life, our traditions and our safety. And if that means we reject some who seek to escape terror, so bit it. Better to reject a few of them than to put our own people at risk. And don’t spend our tax dollars protecting a religious sect that statistically dominates in countries where violence is most prolific.

    • 0
      0

      I should add, Paddington, that hate speech and even violence against Senator Anning is considered quite acceptable by vast numbers who scream ‘no hate speech’ and ‘no violence’. See, they really don’t want peace and love at all. They just want their own way. Just like in the same sex marriage debate, when favouring traditional marriage was ‘hate speech’, but calling someone a ‘homophobe’ or vandalising a church was perfectly acceptable.

  2. 0
    0

    would be ok for a basic check up clean and report on work to be done but any further work should have to be paid for thru normal channels. People must realise that if they are getting something for nothing then someone else must be paying for it.
    People must take the attitude that the user must pay so you need to be responsible with finance its not a bottomless pit for welfare recipients.

    • 0
      0

      That’s right but what else would you expect from a communist. This is the guy who pays his aupair an equivalent of less than $2 / hr to manage his huge property and last yr said that all Australians should receive welfare. There must be money trees growing on his property. Goose.

    • 0
      0

      There are many many pensioners and others who are frugal with their finances but still don’t have the money for dental work. The check-up, clean and x-rays to determine what else might need to be attended to is probably all they can afford, if that. Once it comes to veneers, fillings, extractions, bridges, crowns, dentures, etc its all too hard for them. Not everyone has money to save, so many unforeseen obstacles during a life-time occur. One is more likely to try to save and the washing machine or fridge etc. and any number of things need to be prioritised so its plain to see that “teeth” comes a long way last. We all know this by the statistics. We can’t put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. We don’t know why some people go through life unaffected and others are afflicted with all sorts of events and dramas. What would be better would be that the dentists all charged a similar fee for their services and then a “dentalcare” similar to “medicare” would be easier to implement. There are so many charges with dentists and specialist doctors that are highly exorbitant and need some type of standardising.
      If people could get better dental services/prices the health bill would be a lot less on the doctors/specialists side. After all, your teeth are inside your mouth and part of your body so why shouldn’t they be covered just the same as if you have to have treatment for your throat, tonsils, etc?

    • 0
      0

      Almost a grey hair, I absolutely agree that it’s not a bottomless pit for welfare recipients, and people should learn to be responsible with finance (though BOTH political parties seem to want to punish those who are and reward those who are not!)

      BUT to be responsible with finances, you need to be healthy. And sadly some are just not blessed with good health. Others suffered neglect or abuse in childhood that left residual health problems. Some have encountered trauma or crisis that meant they simply couldn’t be responsible for periods of time. Health care SHOULD be a right of every citizen, regardless of means. It is not ‘welfare’. It’s opportunity. It’s fairness. It’s compassion. It’s human decency. And it’s necessary.

    • 0
      0

      Mitzy – pensioners can use the dental service that all states provide at a nil cost or very low cost.

    • 0
      0

      Greg – It’s not that simple. Depends where you live and how many dental surgeries are prepared to service the scheme. In my region a friend of my cousin was waiting twelve months to get the check-up at the local hospital to refer him to a dental surgery and then its a slow process for the ongoing “vouchers” to be supplied. Then further waiting time once you indicate to the dental surgery you need an appointment and you have vouchers. Sometimes I think people get put to the back of the queue. In the end my cousin’s friend pleaded with family members to assist. From what is reported there are limited amounts of dentists willing to assist vulnerable people, there may be 4 or 5 dentists in a regional/country area and only one servicing these people. Nobody should have to wait forever to get a check-up and/or some treatment we don’t have to wait to see our local doctor, pathologist, have x-rays, scans, MRI’s, broken bones fixed, why do they have to wait for their teeth to be fixed such long periods of time. Your teeth are part of your body. Its time for a change of thinking.

    • 0
      0

      Greg, if I lived 100km further north, I could access brilliant dental services free of charge, but in my state, the waiting lists are horrendous and the service quality is very poor indeed. It’s all a question of which state you live in and also how close to the state capital or largest cities.

    • 0
      0

      Greg, if I lived 100km further north, I could access brilliant dental services free of charge, but in my state, the waiting lists are horrendous and the service quality is very poor indeed. It’s all a question of which state you live in and also how close to the state capital or largest cities.

    • 0
      0

      almost a grey hair – when I went to school in the 50s in Europe a dentist visited my school and checked us out one by one. He/she compiled a report about what treatment if any was needed for the pupil and the report given to the parents by the school. They did not trust us with the report as none of us wanted to go to the dentist!
      Taxpayer paid for the initial examination, the treatment was paid for by the parents and they made us look after our teeth in a better way. Nothing wrong with that: nothing in life is always totally free. In my 70s and have still all my own teeth.

  3. 0
    0

    AGH, what you suggest would be almost worthless, it is fillings, dentures etc that are vital, that so many can not afford, – I find there are many foods I can not eat, because of poor teeth.
    When you recall we have all been paying since the 1940’s an old age pension tax for all our working life it is foolish to talk about user pays, we have already paid, bigtime.

    • 0
      0

      Just think of all the money you save from all those foods you can’t eat, just put that money aside in a tin and use it to go to the dentists, it will save my kids from paying for everything you expect for nothing. Or use the Money they put into your bank each fortnight.
      Financial experts are telling my kids who are trying to pay off a mortgage to stop drinking coffee and save five bucks a day and pay it off their mortgage, there is a lesson to be learnt here. I have just had a partial plate made for 3 teeth $2500 My wife is having root canal treatment another $2500. Who do you think is paying for that , certainly not the tooth fairy.
      I am retired not old enough for pension , my wife works casual 2 or three days a week, no health ins, we had to budget for it and went one at a time and pay ourselves

    • 0
      0

      I think you need to shop around as those prices you quoted are not true. I have had the same wirk done fir a third of the cost. Also public dental waiting times are over 2yrs and a co payment is required.

    • 0
      0

      Save up your pennies and take a trip to India – full mouth replacement with top class implants under $9000. Why go here when one implant can cost up to $15,000?

    • 0
      0

      And there are big risks attached to treatment abroad, Trebor. My implants are taking a year because the surgeon is emphatic that if adequate healing time isn’t allowed between each stage of the procedure, there will be serious problems. That makes a lot of sense. I considered going overseas, but the evidence was strongly in favour of having the work done here where I can return for follow-up under warranty if there are problems, and I can let the gums heal properly after each visit instead of risking infection or failure by implanting into swollen and tender gums.

    • 0
      0

      And there are big risks attached to treatment abroad, Trebor. My implants are taking a year because the surgeon is emphatic that if adequate healing time isn’t allowed between each stage of the procedure, there will be serious problems. That makes a lot of sense. I considered going overseas, but the evidence was strongly in favour of having the work done here where I can return for follow-up under warranty if there are problems, and I can let the gums heal properly after each visit instead of risking infection or failure by implanting into swollen and tender gums.

    • 0
      0

      ozrog – co-payment depends on state and service being done, there are no cost services in some states.

  4. 0
    0

    Many poor people cannot afford to go to the dentist. The costs are exhorbitant. The public system at the moment is beyond inadequate. It is not just the elderly either. People have insufficient hours of work or unable to work or just low paid.
    If it is not sustainable then provide the basics like check and anything urgent and extras for low income people. It would give some information on how bad the problem is because it affects other health issues as well.

    • 0
      0

      Fine so what is the answer, expecting everything for free is certainly not. Joe Hockey may have hit the nail on the head when he said “get better educated and get a better paid job” as much as I hated what he said you must think about what he said and realise we are going down the gurgler rapidly and we must fix the problems not keep putting band aids on them. At the end of the day someone has to pay for welfare and if not enough is being raised for welfare then we can’t spend it on welfare, its a cruel world

    • 0
      0

      almost a grey hair, maybe get the top end of town to pay tax! Still so many companies and individuals are able to avoid paying any tax.

    • 0
      0

      Grey hair public dental is not free and helps save resources being used in public hospitals. Bad teeth can lead to many other health conditions including the heart.

    • 0
      0

      “Almost a grey hair’, Hockey’s advice isn’t a solution either, because you get a better job and save for retirement and then it’s ripped off you by a greedy government that won’t pay pensions to anyone who put a little aside, and a greedy Labor Party that wants share investing restricted to the rich.

      I think free dental care would be a good investment in public health. Better way to spend money than many other hairbrained policies that cost the earth.

    • 0
      0

      “Almost a grey hair’, Hockey’s advice isn’t a solution either, because you get a better job and save for retirement and then it’s ripped off you by a greedy government that won’t pay pensions to anyone who put a little aside, and a greedy Labor Party that wants share investing restricted to the rich.

      I think free dental care would be a good investment in public health. Better way to spend money than many other hairbrained policies that cost the earth.

    • 0
      0

      almost a grey hair – It’s not possible for EVERYBODY to get a better job, where will all these better jobs be and what happens to the lower paid jobs. Joe Hockey is a moron.

    • 0
      0

      I think we should all stand for political office, Greg. The entire population should submit nominations and requests for funding for their election campaign. That would solve all the problems. We’d then all get huge salaries and fat pensions and there would be nobody screaming for aged pension increases or free dental and that houses were unaffordable. Problem solvered! Hockey is a actually a genius!

    • 0
      0

      Almost a Grey Hair,

      Yours is a measured reply. We want to be a caring society (and largely are) but the resources have to come from somewhere. That really boils down to all striving to do their best, then the most efficient caring use of whatever doesn’t overly inhibit that striving.

    • 0
      0

      Almost a Grey Hair,

      Yours is a measured reply. We want to be a caring society (and largely are) but the resources have to come from somewhere. That really boils down to all striving to do their best, then the most efficient caring use of whatever doesn’t overly inhibit that striving.

  5. 0
    0

    Forget Private Health Cover – that is a total joke! Until recently, I had top cover for hospital and extras. But the dental work I needed done – cost me $2,865. I got back $275! This was a pittance in regards to the amount I had paid for extras. I had to pay for the procedure before hand too. Yes I did find some cheaper quotes, but this was some distance away and was impractical. I’m just glad I told the dentist to do all that needed to be done. Have dropped extras and hope there will be no more dental work needed.

    • 0
      0

      I worked out long ago that paying Extras with my private health cover was a waste of money. Even with the hereditary faulty enamel on my teeth requiring several expensive root canals over time it was cheaper to always have savings available and pay as I go. I too avoid certain foods to try to save my teeth and end up paying more for soft fruit like figs, berries, bananas, paw paw etc. in order to stay healthy but save my teeth. I don’t know what the answer is to the dental dilemma as I do not want to pay extra Medicare levy to only cover some treatments which may not be the ones I need. That’s not fair either. It is the root canals etc. that are hard to afford. Some people here talk about $2,500 for a root canal. Well let me tell you I have paid over $4,000 all up. It is important to have a root canal done by an expert because if it fails you will be up for the full amount again to fix it. By the way, Medicare is not fair for everyone anyway as not all doctors bulk-bill. It depends where you live. The whole system is not fair as their is always someone who misses out.

  6. 0
    0

    If government stopped wasting tax payers money it wouldn’t be hard to fund health and dental cover for everyone.

    • 0
      0

      Totally agree Snowflake. The health of the nation should be a priority. It would save a lot of money in the long term. Many people go on strong painkillers in order to kill dental pain because they can’t afford dentistry and don’t know what else to do.

    • 0
      0

      Waterproof superglue works wonders for a while on a broken cap ……

    • 0
      0

      Trebor I’d be careful if I were you. I don’t know that the ingredients of waterproof superglue are suitable for human consumption. You could be poisoning your whole system.

  7. 0
    0

    I have extras health cover – can’t run to hospital cover on Age Pension – but still have huge gap to pay. I had two teeth break a couple of weeks ago, will cost quite a bit to get them fixed. So I guess I won’t be travelling interstate to meet my new grandchild in July – that would have been my air fare. Some kind of dental scheme would be very welcome. No good being on the dental care list – I’d die waiting I think!

  8. 0
    0

    There has always been a long wait for public dental care. This is not something new. My dentist has always charged only what my medical insurance pays. He is a Godsend. However, I recently had to have a tooth removed (long story) but I had to have it done in hospital under a general. Gap for the Anaesthetist (for a short job) was $650 – now that is extravagant. Have friends who travel overseas for dental work, have a holiday at the same time and it works out cheaper than having it done here plus they have been very happy with the treatment and results.

  9. 0
    0

    First bring dentist robber barons under control and cut their excessive costs.

    • 0
      0

      i can’t agree more…after 10 yrs of trusting a dentist, i couldn’t get rid of the feeling, that i was robbed by him…and so must have been my private health fund…

  10. 0
    0

    AGH, can’t you read? when i say that all taxpayers have been paying 7% tax on their earnings since the 1940’s, that completely extinguishes your false argument that we are getting our pensions for nothing, – it is not welfare, it is repayment, and your kids are paying it also, so why should they whinge?
    I can understand that you might disagree with someone else, but just to ignore thier argument is sneaky and dishonest, you obviously have no answer and do not have the courage to admit it, – Another Neo-liberal troll, don’t we have enough of them already?
    To think that because someone has insufficient chewing surface on their teeth to eat foods they like does not mean they can survive without food, – in fact many cheap foods are hard to chew so more expensive foods have to replace them.
    Looking forward to when you join the rest of us and wake up to your follies.

    • 0
      0

      At no stage did I say you get your pension for nothing, I said you shouldn’t expect everything for nothing, free dental, free medical, free expensive operations if you have no insurance. Free or cheap travel, cheaper prescriptions where I pay $30 and you pay $5.50. free or cheap car rego reduced price car insurance simply because you are old. As for being a neo nazi I haven’t and won’t ever vote liberal. Keep your hair on (if you still have any, I have)

Load More Comments

FACEBOOK COMMENTS



SPONSORED LINKS

continue reading

Health Insurance

Your health insurance is about to go up. Again.

Do you feel like the cost of your health insurance is always going up? You’re not wrong. Premiums are about...

Finance

Private health rebate levels are dropping, what does that mean?

We are all used to private health insurance rebates on 1 April every year, but this year the rebates will...

Health news

Doctors call for convicted child killer Kathleen Folbigg's release

A group of 90 expert scientists and doctors is calling for convicted child killer Kathleen Folbigg to be pardoned in...

Lifestyle

Adorable celebrity pets

Just like the rest of us, Hollywood's A-listers are pretty obsessed with their pets, especially when it comes to sharing...

Health news

Who needs a colonoscopy most? Ensuring those at risk head the queue

Professor Jon Emery Mary was 55 when she started having on and off tummy pains, and noticed she needed to...

Health & Ageing

What stress does to your skin, hair and nails

Stress can be an all-consuming beast. Not only does it overwhelm your brain, but it can have a physical impact,...

Property

Multi-generational family living grows, forcing design changes

The trend towards multi-generational living, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is producing fresh approaches to Australian housing. Urban designer Craig...

Seniors Finance

Your retirement 'pay cheque'

Nothing beats the reassurance of knowing there's money coming in each month. Then retirement happens and, suddenly, it's up to...

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...