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News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin November 2011
3 NOVEMBER 2011 PUbLIC dEnTISTRY In AUSTRALIAn SOCIETY It will come as no surprise to many that the Australian community is watching with interest as to what is on the horizon for public dental schemes. In this current environment, rarely a day goes by without dentistry and the Australian Dental Association Inc. (ADA) getting a mention in the media, whether in print, on the radio or on television. We can say that there is increasing evidence that society expects adequate access to dental services and has trusted governments and the dental profession to cater for its dental needs but feels that these needs are not being met. From an historical perspective, dentistry became a profession as a speciality within medicine – one of the traditional learned professions, those being law, medicine and the clergy. Evolution has occurred over the centuries and dentistry is now a profession in its own right and society is the profession’s patient. It was stated 2500 years ago by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus that nothing endures but change. Our status as a profession is a legacy of what our forefathers adhered to in the past combined with our current behaviours. Advocating such things as water fluoridation and the promotion of preventive dental messages has been, and still are, viewed by society as the profession placing the public good ahead of personal gain. But it should also be noted that the climate in which we practise dentistry has evolved and will continue to evolve, as do the expectations and views of society. Balancing the responsibilities of being a professional and also maintaining a living requires careful judgement to retain our role and perception as a health professional and to not be considered purely a businessperson. That is to say that the art of being a professional should not be lost in the commercial environment. With all the current attention that dentistry is receiving in the media, it seems that Australian society is currently re-examining its relationship with the dental profession, just as it seems to be doing with all professions. In dentistry, the focus is on access and affordability of dental care. Historically, society has provided the dental profession with the responsibility to cater for its dental needs and has allowed the profession an amount of self-control, but now it considers its relationship with the profession to be unbalanced. There is certainly evidence of frustration that is displayed when the less fortunate members in our community are unable to access dental care. Members of the public are aware that the government’s expenditure on dental infrastructure, both from a Federal and State platform, has been run down. Reduction in funding for services means funds are insufficient to provide for the communities dental needs. The dental profession must ensure that access to dental care is available to all Australians and we as a profession must take the lead and place society first and foremost in all of our deliberations. For some time now, the ADA has recognised that it is approximately 35% of the population that are unable to access proper dental care. This 35% includes the financially disadvantaged, people living in rural and remote regions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons and those with special needs. It is these groups that should be targeted to receive access to dental care. Many members will be familiar with the ADA’s proposal for public dentistry in Australia, DentalAccess. For those that have not viewed it, please visit www.ada.org.au/dentalaccess.aspx. This is the message that the ADA delivers at every opportunity to those of influence. You are encouraged to do likewise. MEdICARE, THE CddS And nEW COMPLIAnCE LEGISLATIOn Members should have received correspondence from Medicare Australia (MA) regarding new MA compliance legislation and administrative arrangements. Information regarding this documentation has previously been provided in the News Bulletin and will be provided again in the future. However, members should visit the MA website www. medicare.gov.au to familiarise themselves with the current MA requirements. I would specifically like to focus your attention on the Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance) Act 2011, which amends the Health Insurance Act 1973, commencing 9 April 2011. As mentioned, there will be material published on the ADA website to help members familiarise themselves with the legislation. We are attempting to have an MA officer present on a future ADA Dental Files edition. A new aspect to MA armamentarium has been created within the administrative penalty for unsubstantiated services (non- compliance). An administrative penalty with a base rate of 20% for unsubstantiated amounts that total over $2500 has been introduced. This penalty is able to be reduced or increased up to 30% depending on the health professional’s behaviour, that is, level of cooperation with a compliance audit. It should be noted that this administration penalty is in addition to the repayment to MA of any monies received for unsubstantiated services, e.g. administrative non- compliance. Thus MA is not only claiming money back but are now also imposing a fine. As members have previously been advised, should they be contacted by MA regarding a compliance audit they should first contact their Branch. However, we should all be aware of this new additional penalty that is now at MA’s disposal. F. Shane Fryer Federal President president’s comments “The dental profession must ensure that access to dental care is available to all Australians and we as a profession must take the lead and place society first and foremost in all of our deliberations.”
ADA News Bulletin October 2011
ADA News Bulletin December 2011