Nine in 10 older Australians want the government to introduce a universal dental care scheme, according to the most recent YourLifeChoices Friday Flash Poll.
The poll, which asked 225,000 older Australians about whether ‘denticare’ should become an election issue revealed that 90 per cent are in favour of the Greens proposal to introduce a universal dental care insurance scheme similar to Medicare.
More than 60 per cent of them would vote for a party that promised to deliver such a scheme and almost half of the survey respondents rate it as an extremely important election issue.
“I will vote for the party that puts health (including dental care) at the top of the list. Too many people are missing out on treatment that they should be receiving and many of these people have paid taxes and medical insurance for years. Because of age and circumstances changing, many are now no longer able to afford private cover,” wrote YourLifeChoices member Hyacinth.
While over 65s can access publicly funded dental care, over one quarter of the respondents (26 per cent) weren’t aware if they were eligible. Just over one third (36 per cent) knew they were eligible yet over half of them had not accessed this care. Almost four in 10 (38 per cent) were not eligible for publicly funded dental care.
Quite possibly the most shocking finding of the poll was that 10 per cent of older Australians had to resort to performing their own dental work.
Other key findings of the survey included:
- 41 per cent visit a dentist annually
- almost half (48 per cent) do not have private health insurance
- of those who do have private health insurance, 47 per cent say dental is not part of their cover
- only 10 per cent of private health insurance holders have full dental as part of their cover
- 73 per cent have their own teeth (ie: no false teeth or dentures).
It also seems that many older Australians accept their lot when it comes to dentistry costs, as evident in the one in three who bother to shop around for the best deal on dental care. As to whether dental tourism is an attractive option, 20 per cent would consider going overseas for affordable dental work.
“So many Australians are going to Thailand to get their teeth done on the cheap as well as all sorts of other surgeries. Their doctors and dentists are all excellent and their hospitals are so much cleaner than ours. Australian dentists charge too much and it’s hard to find one that can treat teeth without trying to rip you off with their poor-quality materials,” wrote Jackie.
YourLifeChoices member Aussie explains how dental tourism worked for her.
“I just did a root canal in Thailand and cost me $420 including medicines and a full final filling two weeks after the surgery. So cheap and all good – no infection. How much would you pay for this service in Australia? $1000? $2000? $3000 – or more? Overall will be a lot cheaper to do dental work in Thailand and in my case it’s all good – no problems at all. Of course, I did research to find the proper dentist because there are some shonky ones for sure,” wrote Aussie.
When questioned about the additional costs of going overseas for dental work, Aussie elaborated:
“Yes, there is extra cost for accommodation, food, etc. I stayed with my daughter in a three-star hotel for three weeks and had a great holiday and cost me about $4000 including the root canal and two extra fillings.”
Most members can’t understand why our teeth are considered a separate issue when it comes to being covered by Medicare.
“The functions of our body rely totally on how we prepare our food in the mouth before it is ingested. If the tools of trade are not working properly in the mouth, then we are all potential contributors to the enormous medical services bill that this nation carries,” wrote OL.
“We were given teeth to chew our food and aid digestion. How can Medicare exclude coverage for treating and fixing issues located in the mouth?” wrote Play Fairly.
“Yes, it should be included in Medicare like all other body parts. Why is the mouth any different? But it is not an election issue. There are far more important issues that need sorting out for all Australians. Not everything can be or should be spruiked as an election issue,” wrote KSS.
One member points out that adding dental to Medicare may be a band-aid solution, and the root cause of this issue is the high fees charged by private dentists.
“Nobody yet has drawn attention to the exorbitant fees charged by private dentists – far dearer than medical doctors. Perhaps if monitored more closely, we would not be considering ‘denticare’?” wrote Crikey.
The 10 per cent of those who do not consider dental care important enough to be an election issue are most likely not in the 10 per cent who have to perform their own dental work. As for the rest, the major parties’ health and dental policies could well be a deciding factor in this year’s federal election.
Are you shocked by the number of people who have had to perform their own dental work? How important is health and dental policy to you? While dental tourism can be an extremely risky proposition, after seeing Aussie’s dental tourism calculations and assessment, would you now consider going overseas for dental work (and a holiday)?