A $5 billion dental plan the Turnbull government claims is “fair and equitable” has been dubbed a “hoax” by Labor and “smoke and mirrors” by dentists.
A new Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme will replace the Child Dental Benefits Scheme introduced by Labor and the current adult dental program, which the government says have been “underperforming”.
Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the changes on Saturday and the government hopes the new plan will provide treatment to more than 10 million people.
It will cover 5.3 million Australians under 18 as well as the estimated five million on low incomes who hold a Commonwealth concession card.
“Today we are laying the foundations for a fair and equitable national public dental scheme for children and adults that Australians can afford now and into the future,” Ms Ley said.
However, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has described the new scheme as “smoke and mirrors” and says axing the children’s dental scheme is the wrong approach to a serious problem.
“Let’s see this for what it is. This is a ‘budget saving’ that results in a reduction of about $200m per annum for dental care,” ADA president Rick Olive said in a statement.
“Let’s not be fooled. This is a measure that just won’t deliver.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten said the government was playing pre-budget games.
“Today’s announcement about dental care will cut $1 billion from dental care in Australia. And it will add millions of children to the public dental waiting lists,” he said.
“The idea that you improve the dental health of children by cutting $1 billion and making all the children of Australia have to go through public waiting lists to get dental care support from the government, is a dental care hoax.”
Poor dental health is the third highest cause of preventable hospital admissions, with more than 63,000 Australians hospitalised each year.