November 16th 2007
Stupid dental policies
The dental policies offered by the major parties range from disappointing to stupid.
The Coalition's new $2,125 a year dental Medicare scheme for people with some medical problems is a good start, but ignores most of the population.
Unfortunately, Labor wants to scrap it, and replace it with an even more restrictive scheme, paying only for yearly check-ups for teen-agers from low income households. Labor's Teen-Dental will tell teen-agers just how much worse their teeth have got since their last appointment, but won't pay to actually help them. An earlier Labor commitment to give the states money to cut waiting lists won't work either, because they have not calculated for increased demand.
Also, Queensland is disadvantaged compared with states like NSW, because Queensland will get only a 13.8% increase and $19M a year compared with 23% and $32M for NSW. The Coalition won't spend more, while Labor has found an unfair and expensive way to do nothing.
Only the Greens and Democrats recognize the need for profound dental reform. Whoever takes government, we hope they smarten their dental policies, or else the dental crisis will decay from bad to rotten.
A/Prof Hans Zoellner
Chairman of the Association for the Promotion of Oral Health
Westmead Centre for Oral Health, Westmead, NSW