The Guardian June 21, 2000

Dental health crisis

by Magda Hannson

While the Howard Government throws $2.3 billion to high and middle income 
earners to subsidise an inefficient and unnecessary private health system, 
the poorest and neediest have to go without even basic dental care.

Four years ago the Federal Government stopped funding the $100 million 
Commonwealth Dental Health Programme, saying that it is a state 
responsibility. Despite calls to reinstate it the Government refuses.

A report by the NSW Council of Social Services shows that the abolition of 
the programme has had a detrimental impact on the dental health and quality 
of life of poor and disadvantaged people. 

Waiting times are up to five years and many people are living in pain, 
discomfort and embarrassment. Many others are having teeth unnecessarily 
extracted as their access to preventative care is restricted.

On the other hand, $290 million of the 30 percent non-means tested tax 
rebate  that $2.3 billion gift of taxpayers' money for private health 
insurance  is dedicated to dental care.

Adding to this major health problem is the $562 million recently allocated 
to the Country Health Budget, which contains funds for doctors, nurses, 
aged-care facilities, pharmacists, mental health services, psychologists 
and podiatrists, but not dentists. 

This is despite a 1998 report by the Australian Institute of Health and 
Welfare showing rural Australians have higher rates of dental disease than 
city dwellers.

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