28 April 2019

A Shorten Labor Government will invest $2.4 billion in a Pensioner Dental Plan – giving up to three million older Australians access to free dental care.

If you receive an Age Pension or hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Labor’s Pensioner Dental Plan will give you $1,000 worth of free essential dental care, covered by Medicare, every two years.

This is a health boost and a cost of living boost for up to three million older Australians. And it’s the next step towards Labor’s vision of universal access to dental care in Australia.

Over 185,000 older Australians a year skip getting the dental care they need because of cost.
Despite this, the Liberals have cut $283 million a year from public dental funding – the equivalent of over 465,000 fewer dental visits every year.

This has caused waiting times for public dental to blow out across the country – with average waiting times of up to 820 days across the country for basic dental care, and 1 in 10 patients waiting up to four years.

Under Labor’s Pensioner Dental Plan, age pensioners and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders will be eligible for $1,000 worth of dental services every two years.

Within this cap, Medicare will cover a wide range of dental services such as examinations, x-rays, cleaning, fluoride treatment, fissure sealants, fillings, root canals, extractions, periodontal treatment and dentures.

A specific schedule of benefits will be developed in consultation with dentists and experts, to ensure standard costs when accessing the scheme.

Labor will work with dentists to roll out the scheme, with accredited private dental practices able to join on the condition that they bulk bill, and meet minimum quality, safety and efficiency standards.

Labor will also work with the states and territories to enable public dentists to access the scheme, providing a substantial boost to federal funding for public dental services. In exchange, Labor will ask the states and territories to:

  • Bulk bill all eligible patients – removing existing co-payments in some jurisdictions.
  • Maintain their existing dental spending – boosting public services for other patient cohorts.
  • Work with the Commonwealth on preventive oral health measures, and share consistent data with the Commonwealth.

Aboriginal Medical Services, which provide vital dental care for First Nations peoples, will also be able to access the scheme.

Labor’s Pensioner Dental Plan will boost the health care of older Australians
Seeing a dentist is an essential part of health care – linked to wellbeing, nutrition and quality of life. Labor’s investment will ensure that older Australians aren’t slipping through the cracks in getting the dental care they need.

This is also a cost-of-living investment. Older Australians are grappling with soaring private health insurance premiums under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government and a growing number are dropping cover altogether – meaning people have to dip more into the household budget to cover health bills.

Labor has a proud record of investing in access to dental care. In 2013, Labor established the Child Dental Benefits Scheme – giving eligible children aged up to 18 access to free essential dental care. The Liberals spent years trying to undermine the Scheme – with Scott Morrison trying to axe it altogether in his very first Budget as Treasurer.

Labor builds Medicare, the Liberals cut it.

This election is a choice between Labor’s plan for more health investment or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town under the Liberals – paid for by cuts to the services older Australians rely on.

After six years of the Liberals’ cuts and chaos, our united Labor team is ready to deliver a fair go for all Australians, not just the top end of town.