09 April 2015
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, will join dentist and optometrist professional bodies to warn of the disastrous impact of Federal Government cuts to allied health funding on the health of Tasmanians.
Mr Wilkie said as debate raged on the now-shelved GP co-payment, the Federal Government had introduced a co-payment by stealth on optometry services and was giving no guarantees on funding for dental services in next month’s federal budget.
“The move to introduce a co-payment and freeze payments to GPs turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
“The cut to optometry is already in place while the threat to dentistry is all the more real considering Prime Minister Tony Abbott is on the public record saying dentistry should not be part of Medicare. The fact is that the much anticipated increase in Commonwealth funding for dentistry in Tasmania was not forthcoming in last year’s federal budget.’’
A five percent reduction in the Medicare rebate for optometry services was introduced in January and indexation has been frozen. Anecdotally this has forced optometrists in Tasmania to introduce co-payments of between $5 and $40 and other practices to consider their viability.
Also in Tasmania, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is becoming increasingly concerned the Federal Government will cease its contribution to public dentistry. The ADA fears this would leave Oral Health Services Tasmania with a depleted workforce and reduce their efforts to continue reducing public dental wait lists.
Mr Wilkie said the Federal Government must reverse the reduction in the Medicare rebate for optometry services and guarantee funding for dental.
“Tasmania has the worst adult oral health of all states so any cuts to the public dental service will be hardest felt here,’’ he said.
“Tasmanians are also among the least able to afford a co-payment to see an optometrist so many will put off getting their eyes treated as they can’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses. There is no doubt these cuts to allied health will have a disastrous impact on the health of Tasmanians and they must be stopped.’’