Health Care Card holders should have dental choice
Bendigo dentist, Dr Marietta Taylor, is quoted in theBendigo Advertiser on 20 March as opposing the Grattan Institute proposal for universal dental coverage.
The main argument Dr Taylor advances against our proposal is that public dental care is the most efficient way of providing care to Health Care Card holders.
This may be true, but unfortunately there is no publicly available information that supports this claim.
When public dental services provide care to children covered by the existing Commonwealth Child Dental Benefits Schedule, they are paid exactly the same as private dentists who provide similar care. When we did our report on dental care, we were not able to find any information on whether or not the public sector made a profit at the prevailing price.
More fundamentally, Dr Taylor assumes that any public schemes should only be for Health Care Card holders. So why should we treat the mouth or teeth so differently from the rest of the body? There is a strong public support for Medicare - a universal scheme - so why should care of the mouth be a residualised and ghettoised scheme?
Further, why should Health Care Card holders not have choice about where to seek dental care? A targeted scheme inevitably means that, at the margin between eligible and ineligible, there will be inequity. Separate schemes for poor people will always be at risk of budget cuts - as we have seen in public dental care over the years - and the recipients offered an inadequate service.
The Grattan Institute report Filling the dental gap: a universal dental scheme for Australia argued that as a long-term aspiration we should aim for universality in a mixed public-private model for dental care.
We proposed the first stage of getting there, but only as a stage along the way, should be, as Dr Taylor suggests, to fund properly oral health access for Health Care card holders. Grattan Institute proposes this should be in a public private model.
Stephen Duckett, Director, Health Program, Grattan Institute
Time to follow NZ lead in sensible responses
Having had an affinity with New Zealand for over 40 years through relations, it never ceases to amaze me, the difference in attitude and behavior, regarding major upheavals, and the sensible and measured responses, to the circumstances that engulf them.
New Zealand has a population of approximately five million people, Australia 25 million, but per capita, their behavior far outweighs ours in the common sense department. Frankly it is embarrassing, and has been deteriorating to the extent that we are seen as a "bunch of hayseeds" who cannot help ourselves in times of distress, with language that belies belief. Why can't our leaders put away the dog whistle and just, for once, consider the implications.
Read more: Castlemaine honours victims of Christchurch
We are a multicultural country. Australia could not have prospered to the extent it has by relying on "Australian population growth," and this has been the situation since the 1960's, so isn't it about time that we all accepted our lot, and just lived our lives, while respecting others.
There is nothing to be gained but animosity otherwise, and surely we can do without any more that.
Ken Price, Eaglehawk
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