Medicare dental scheme is spreading its wings nationwide, with latest figures of claims for pricey crowns and bridges in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
Latest data shows Medicare paid $51.7m for crowns and bridges in NSW in the first half of 2009-10, compared with $91m in the whole of 2008-09. The previous financial year's of spending in Queensland of $3.1m has already been exceeded, with $5m claimed in the first half year.
An anonymous Sydney dentist was exposed yesterday to have claimed nearly $4 million in benefits since the starting of the scheme in November, 2007.
Accusations of rorting and other dubious practices have continued to rise, latest with a number of dentists involving in mass leaflet drops of entire suburbs and then using the $4250 provided under the scheme to offer expensive crowns and other treatments while ignoring the much more important work of fillings.
Nicola Roxon, the Federal Health Minister said the current evidence of increasing uptake made the case for discontinuing the scheme more urgent. Some dental experts blamed the government, saying that they (dentists) had no option but to publicize the scheme's existence to needy patients because of the Labor's refusal to do so and thus left GPs unclear about its rules.
The present rules state that the treatments are only made available to patients who have a chronic disease that is aggravated by their pool oral health. Dentists have been known to encourage patients to inquire with their doctor about the scheme sometimes even while believing that they will not quality. This so-called reverse-referrals have increased a number of complaints by doctors.
Dentist Frank Saeed validated his practices in Launceston, Tasmania, and Granville, NSW, and also had engaged in leaflet drops of entire suburbs, but rejected the allegations this amounted to rorting. He said other dentists had used mail-outs and there was nothing wrong with them.
Medicare is not advertising it, GPs don't want to do it, and we see day after day our patients suffering from dental problems, said Saeed.
Tony Burges, a dentist based in Sydney's inner west said there was lack of control over the way the scheme was run. There were even reports of patients going back to public dental system, with mouths filled with cavities, because a dentist had used the scheme's benefit to fit expensive crowns.
I think there's been a lot of good done by the scheme, but there are obviously people out there who are pushing the boundaries and rorting, stated Dr Burges.