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- Australia & Pacific Political & Social Issues
The June 2009 report of Australian Government’s National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission [NHHRC], asses that about 120 recommendations were made to help the country’s health system improve through realistic, affordable and fair allocation of resources in pursuit of providing a competitive and efficient health service to all Australians. This is in response to the growing concern regarding the quality, safety, and efficiency of the health care system based on mounting evidence that suggest poor performance, and malpractices. The report not only included recommended policies but also provides advances in health, information and communication through technology that could benefit both the people and the medical practitioners. Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has dedicated another six months of Australia-wide citizen consultations before the Australian Government delivers its response to the report (McDiarmid, 2009).
An establishment of health plan, similar to Finland and the Netherlands, will provide a wider range of social health insurance for all Australians with competitive health plan choices from public, private and non-government organizations that provide such help. The proposed health plan will cover a compulsory set of basic health services that include but not limited to hospitalization, medical, dental, pharmaceutical, allied health and aged care. This will not answer the present medical concerns but will also help Australians with their health conditions years from now (as cited in Cronin, 2009 & Lewis, 2009).
This is also to pursue the “Healthy Australia 2020 Goals” that include curbing the obesity level, binge drinking and road trauma. A National Health Promotion and Prevention Agency is also proposed to be set up to measure the progress of the country towards its goals. It will also be in charge of creating programs that promote “health literacy” among students, workers and adults (Cronin, 2009).
One of the policies mentioned on the report is the need for improved dental health care program that will be accessible and will benefit all the citizens of Australia. This will ensure that all Australians have access to prevention, restoration, and dental services Specifically, Australian children through preschool and school dental programs (ibid).
The Rudd government raised three options in addressing the concerns about reforming state and federal government’s handling of the health system. One proposition was to adopt a European-style social insurance scheme financed by the Commonwealth that will allow Australians to choose from health fund plans who would acquire services on their behalf (Haines, 2009). When Medicare was introduced in 1983, it did not include provisions for dental health services despite the fact that dental work is a specialized part of medical practice and that dental health could affect the whole well-being just like any other diseases of the body (Mac, 2009).
Denticare was proposed to answer the need of Australians for a better access to dental care services. The recommendations were made by NHHRC for a national one-year dental scheme that will annually cost Australians $3.6 billion. The recommendations include four important points regarding oral health. One, is the establishment of the Denticare Australia’ scheme that will provide complete access to preventive and restorative dental care regardless of the person’s economic status and capabilities. It will also allow Australians to choose between a public or private dental health plans. Either way, the Denticare will shoulder the costs of the plan chosen by the individual (Pearson, 2009).
Second, the Denticare program will work based on a one-year arrangement scheme subsequently after accomplishing the registration process. This will provide time for clinical preparations of dentists, dental therapists and dental hygienists to adjust to the same type of operations done by medical practitioner. This will of course entail additional costs because it will require training and capital for infrastructure development like dental clinics and equipment and apparatus acquisitions (Ibid).
Third, the policy will include a remodeling and expansion on the dental programs for schools and preschool. Fourth, additional resources availability should be assured for improved oral health promotion and awareness campaign that is dependent on the relative cost-effectiveness (Ibid).
The funding for the proposed Denticare policy is through increased medical taxation. A 0.75 percent increase in the Medicare levy will provide billions of dollars to answer the need for vital dental services that economic disadvantaged people cannot manage to pay for. The 0.75 tax increase is an additional tax worth $450 for those individuals earning $60,000 a year. It will also pump up the basic Medicare levy by up to 2.25 percent of income (Sharp, 2009 & Lewis, 2009).
For Dr. Natalie Dalati, A dentist from Sydney, any efforts to get people in a dentist chair is highly appreciated because of the phobia and misconceptions that people have about oral hygiene. "A lot of people don't realize that if they put off an appointment until they're in pain, they're probably going to need root canal surgery or a crown and it's going to cost them so much more" (qtd. in Clayfield, 2009) The lack of appreciation and knowledge about the importance of oral care coupled with high cost of dental care has undesirable consequences that makes people neglect going to the dentist.
This proposed program will also help reduce the number of persons on the waiting list in public hospitals seeking dental care. Especially that the number of patients across the country waiting for dental assistance is at a staggering 650,000 and rising. More often than not, when the patient gets to finally be attended to, he or she has been on the waiting list for several years and have a worsened condition than when he or she signed up for a dental service in a public hospital (Clayfield, 2009).
The Australian Dental Association headed by its President Dr. Neil Hewson and Commissioners in Canberra is opposed to the universal dental scheme branding it as too complex, inefficient and impractical. Furthermore, it will not answer nor provide for the demand of quality dental care for the underprivileged Australians. Hewson also believed that the lack of efficient dental care to the economically challenged is not because of failure in the system; rather it is caused by under resourcing dentistry commenting that "to make some very limited, very basic dental services universally available does not solve the needs of the disadvantaged and in fact may compound them.” It’s a fallacy to assume that provisions of basic services to everyone will provide solution to dental care services. Again, the stress and highlight should be on the efficacy aspect of the service rendered. Especially in dental care wherein there is no temporary or improvised solution. Poor dental service like extraction for instance, will only lead to an aggravated condition with long-term negative effect (Hewson, 2009 & Clayfield, 2009).
The proposed Denticare is also founded on a demographic base care system that focuses on a dental approach for the collective and not necessarily on the quality of dental care. What is greatly and far more needed is the demand for funding the dental needs for those in worse financial and oral health conditions. This way, the approach is centered on the specific care needed by each individual patient. Moreover, Denticare proposed scheme should be more structured to provide effective treatments that will provide Australians with long-term dental care (Hewson, 2009).
Clayfield, M., 2009, Tax Rise to Bring a Smile, The Australian, viewed 14 September 2009, from <http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25844775-23289,00.html>.
Cronin, D., 2009, National Dental Care Scheme Mooted, The Canberra Times, viewed 14 September 2009, from <http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/national/national/general/national-dental-care-scheme-mooted/1435489.aspx?storypage=0>.
Hewson, N. D., 2009, Interim Report: A Healthier Future for All Australians, Australian Dental Association Inc., viewed 14 September 2009, from <http://www.nhhrc.org.au/internet/nhhrc/publishing.nsf/Content/220-interim/$FILE/220%20-%20Submission%20-%20Australian%20Dental%20Association.pdf>.
Haines, J., 2009, Dentists Lash Denticare, Jenny’s Red News, viewed 14 September 2009, from <http://jennysrednews.blogspot.com/2009/02/dentists-lash-denticare.html>.
Lewis, S.,2009, Kevin Rudd Pushes for Medicare-style National Dental System, The Daily Telegraph, viewed 14 September 2009, from <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/rudd-pushes-for-denticare/story-e6freuzr-1111118860261>.
Mac, P. 2009, Denticare Scheme has Big Holes, The Guardian, Issue # 1400, viewed 14 September 2009, from <http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2009/1400/denticare-scheme.html>.
Metherel, M., 2009, Dentists Lash Out at Free Care Plan, Jenny’s Red News, viewed 14 September 2009, from <http://jennysrednews.blogspot.com/2009/02/dentists-lash-denticare.html>.