MP launches campaign for pensioner dental voucher

MP launches campaign for pensioner dental voucher

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie will advocate for a $1000 dental voucher for pensioners as part of her 2019 Federal Election campaign.

Photograph: Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie with Port Elliot pensioner Sebastiano Consalvo who backs the local MP's bid for a dental voucher having experienced long delays with his dental health.

“Regardless of which party wins Government, I will be lobbying for people on the aged pension to be able to claim up to $1000 for dental work in any two-year period,” Rebekha said today.

“I’ve had the costings done by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) and I know it will cost nearly $1.57 billion over the forward estimates to the 2021-2022 budget.

“But given the Australian Dental Association estimates the medical complications that result from poor oral health among older Australians costs the nation a billion dollars a year, I believe providing a dental voucher is a sensible, preventative spend and sound public policy.

“I have the oldest electorate in South Australia and the high cost of dental care is a concern often raised with my office and, more recently, in the Community Forums I am currently hosting across the electorate.

“I had one older gentleman come to see me in some distress because he was using an adhesive he was not supposed to be using in order to keep his broken dentures intact.

“He was suffering from mouth ulcers and his diet, and his general health, were deteriorating as a result.

“Surely we can do better for our older Australians?”

Centre Alliance health spokesman Stirling Griff said the measure was a very sensible one, given the serious health and life quality impacts of poor dental hygiene.

“Pensioners shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice their dental health, or sit for years on waiting lists. They deserve the dignity of being able to afford this basic service," he said.

Rebekha’s PBO costed dental voucher would be similar in operation to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.

Anyone on a full aged pension would be eligible to claim up to $1000 for dental work in any two-year period.

Orthodontic and cosmetic work and any dental work done in hospitals would be excluded.

“Medical professionals and the aged care sector are well aware of the flow-on effects of poor oral health, particularly for those older Australians who move into residential aged care, are extremely frail and/or suffer from dementia,” Rebekha said.

“Tooth decay, oral cancer and periodontal disease are linked to other chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory diseases.

“Aged care residents with periodontal disease have a higher incidence of developing diabetes and are more at risk of contracting pneumonia and bacterial infections of the blood.

“If we consider it a worthwhile spend to invest in the oral health of our children through a means-tested childhood dental scheme, then we should do the same for our aged pensioners.”