Australian government investigates dental subsidy misuse

A Medicare Australia taskforce is investigating dentists' compliance with the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme after initial audits of 49 dentists showed a substantial number of them failing to comply.

The Chronic Disease Dental Scheme gives eligible patients subsidies of up to $4,250 Australian ($3,600 U.S.) for dental treatment.

When the scheme was introduced in 2007, it was projected to cost $377 million Australian ($320 million U.S.) over four years. In 2009, Australian dentists claimed more than $484 million Australian ($410 million U.S.) under the scheme, according to government officials.

"Medicare Australia has had ongoing concerns about compliance with the scheme, as it has identified dentists claiming for work they have not provided and claiming when they did not meet the legal requirements of the scheme," said Chris Bowen, minister for human services, in a press release.

The government has formed a task force to perform audits on a further 250 dentists on the basis of intelligence, tip-offs, and irregularly high claiming patterns.

"I understand that most dentists try to do the right thing and that the majority of incorrect claiming is accidental," Bowen said.

Medicare Australia is working with the Australian Dental Association to educate and inform dentists on the correct use of the scheme, and will send a letter to all dentists explaining the laws in relation to the scheme and its upcoming compliance activity.

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