Decaying Medicare leaving vulnerable untreated

Decaying Medicare leaving vulnerable untreated

Image Source: Dental Group of Simi Valley

By Lauren Thomson

Low socio-economic backgrounds are the group often blamed for the obesity crisis and high sugar intake complications.

They are also the main group at risk of the gap in Medicare coverage.

Every Australian can access bulk-billing at general practices and some selected private practices.

Most treatments, such as X-rays can be partially claimed back on Medicare, so it is quite common to think that dentistry is included in this Medicare package or some private practices may bulk-bill their patients for dental procedures.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

In 2016, the report ‘Poor Health: The Cost of Living in NSW’ demonstrated the inequality of low-income earners.

Chief Executive Officer of NSW Council of Social Service Tracy Howe detailed perceptions of low-income earners in the report.

“It’s like a badge of poverty… it sends that message and people are totally prejudiced. I know it sounds like it’s just a cosmetic thing but that cosmetic thing is the interface with the public,” Ms Howe said.

Her concern follows those who cannot afford treatment, as the low-income earners may find it hard to get jobs and pay for rental properties because of their appearance, which leads to long-time financial and domestic hardship.

Recent research completed by Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh statistically shows the inequality between different socio-economic classes.

It is the widening divide between the rich and the poor that concerns Mr Leigh the most.

“We have one in 20 Australians who can’t afford Christmas presents for family and friends. One in eight who can’t afford dental care. So that gap between battlers and billionaires is stretched,” Leigh said on ABC’s Q&A.

Australians have some of the most expensive dentistry costs leaving many opting to pay for expensive private health insurance.

When a child is attending school the government will pay for general dental, including cleaning, checkups and fillings, for free.

However, the moment the student leaves high school it becomes their responsibility to pay for their own dental up-keep.

Both Q&A panel and audience also found worrying that an adult who earns under $20,000 annually is, on average, missing eight teeth or more.

Mr Leigh said he was contacted by a young adult claiming that even though they were working full time they still could not afford treatment.

This sentiment is echoed too through Debra Thomson, a mother of two children.

Ms Thomson is worried about her children and said despite them both studying full-time and working part-time they still cannot afford basic treatment.

The Hahndorf local wants the government to hear her pleas for help.

“Here in Adelaide we only have the Adelaide Uni or the Noarlunga Hospital for cheap dental treatments, there is nowhere to go if you need immediate treatment,” Ms Thomson said.

In Adelaide, Adelaide University provides the only specialised dental hospital which is staffed by professionals and students to provide services.

On the SA Health website, future patients are warned there may be lengthy waiting periods to receive treatment.

Adelaide Dental Hospital does offer free services, but to qualify for these services a person must be homeless.

“My daughter was on the wait list for four years to have her wisdom teeth removed, that was four years of watching her miss meals and in constant pain. Now her teeth have twisted as a result and cause her extreme discomfort,” Ms Thomson said.

She blames the politicians who are out-of-touch with the lower class.

“I guarantee you that if my children had the same porcelain smiles like the fat cats at the top that they would be far more happy and proactive,” she said.

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