Australia commits $4B to dental care for rural areas

The Australian Department of Health and Ageing has announced a $4 billion ($4.15 billion U.S.), six-year dental package for low-income citizens in rural areas.

The new program will make more than 3 million children eligible for government-subsidized dental care, in the same way they're now entitled to Medicare-funded general practitioner visits, according to Tanya Plibersek, minister for health, in a press release. The government will also provide dental services to more than 1 million low-income adults and Australians in rural and remote areas, focusing especially on pensioners.

The package includes the following:

  • $2.7 billion for 3.4 million Australian children who will be eligible for subsidized dental care
  • $1.3 billion for 1.4 million additional services for adults on low incomes, including pensioners and concession card holders, and those with special needs
  • $225 million for dental capital and workforce to support expanded services for people living in outer metropolitan, regional, rural, and remote areas

The $4 billion package is in addition to the $515 million announced in the 2012-2013 federal budget. It will replace the Medicare Teen Dental Plan and the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme (CDDS). The current government criticized the previous administration's plan, and stated that CDDS was poorly targeted, saw significant waste and overservicing, and failed to address the capacity constraints in existing public dental services.

Passage of legislation detailing the new program is expected to be presented in the next session.

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