The NSW Branch of the Australian Dental Association strongly endorses the Health Insurance (Dental Services) Bill 2012 introduced in the House of Representatives today by the Shadow Minister for Health and Aging, the Hon Peter Dutton MP.
"This Bill seeks to ensure that dentists who have provided appropriate dental treatment to almost one million chronically ill patients since November 2007 are not unfairly penalised for failing to comply with strict administrative requirements that have little or no bearing on patient treatment and patient outcomes," said Dr Matthew Fisher, CEO of the Australian Dental Association (NSW Branch).
Since the beginning of 2010 an internal audit program established by Medicare Australia has focused on auditing compliance by dentists who have participated in the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. At the end of 2011 there were close to 1,000 audits that were under consideration or active with no sign of abatement.
According to Dr Fisher, a small but growing number of dentists have now been asked to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars each for failing to provide all patients with a written treatment plan and quotation before commencing treatment (including emergency dental treatment) and for not providing the referring doctor with a copy of the patient's treatment plan.
Audits completed to date by Medicare Australia indicate that over seventy per cent of all dentists audited were non-compliant with administrative aspects of this scheme. ADA NSW believes close to ninety per cent of all dentists who have participated would be deemed non-compliant under the existing audit regime.
"The administrative requirements of this scheme were poorly communicated to dentists and both Medicare Australia and the Department of Health and Ageing have privately conceded that their education program for dentists was not as comprehensive as it should have been."
"Even today, four years after this scheme came into operation ADA NSW is aware of instances where Medicare Australia staff do not provide dentists with information they are entitled to know or provide them with incorrect information making it extremely difficult for dentists to comply with the requirements of the scheme,", said Dr Fisher.
"Dentists have been unfairly and very publicly accused of 'rorting' this scheme for financial benefit when most non-compliance stems from a failure to complete required paperwork prior to attending to their patients dental needs."
ADA NSW endorses the Bill introduced today because it seeks to redress this injustice. Dentists should not be penalised if they have provided appropriate dental treatment in a timely fashion to patients with a chronic illness simply because they failed to comply with paperwork requirements they misunderstood or were not even aware of.
ADA NSW is supportive of any action by the Parliament that will assist in this matter being resolved fairly and equitably. We remain engaged with all members of the Parliament and call on them to work constructively to achieve a fair outcome for dentists and for patients with a chronic medical illness.