MP renews call for seniors dental voucher
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has renewed her call for a biennial $1000 dental voucher for pensioners.
The voucher concept was part of her 2019 Federal Election campaign. Last week during debate on legislation to extend dental care to infants, the Centre Alliance MP told Parliament that older Australians on low incomes shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I believe we have another large cohort of Australians, deserving of a similar scheme to that available for children —that is, aged pensioners,” Rebekha said.
“I've been a long supporter of National Seniors Australia's Fix Pension Poverty campaign to provide a universal dental healthcare scheme for older Australians.
“I've been such a supporter of this proposal that I requested that the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) arrange costings for such a scheme back in February 2019. Back then, that cost was approximately $700 million.”
Rebekha says the Coalition hasn’t listened to her advocacy or National Seniors Australia’s campaigning for universal dental care for older Australians but she hoped the Aged Care Royal Commission would change Government policy.
“Addressing dental health is recommendation number 60 of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety,” Rebekha said.
“The recommendation called for a seniors dental benefits scheme to be established no later than 1 January 2023 to fund dental care for people in residential aged care or older Australians who received the age pension or qualify for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
“That's one of the findings of the Royal Commission, and we should be implementing that now, and there would be a cost-benefit to us to do this because mouth and teeth issues are the third most common reason for acute preventable hospital admissions in Australia.
“If we had a dental scheme for older Australians we would actually greatly reduce the cost of hospital admissions in Australia.
“I will continue to advocate for a seniors dental voucher so older Australians can manage their dental health.”
Rebekha’s PBO costed dental voucher would be similar in operation to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule. Anyone on a full age 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.
Rebekha made the comments about senior dental health during debate on the Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2021 which seeks to include children under two years of age on the current dental vouchers. Centre Alliance supports the legislation which is still being debated in the House of Representatives.