Medicare Dental advocacy

The FCAV has advocated for the automatic eligibility of all children in care for Medicare Dental as part of the review by the Federal Health Department of the Dental Benefits Act 2008. The FCAV’s submission was lodged through the National Foster and Kinship Care Collective [and can be accessed here] in August 2022.

Children in care’s access to Medicare Dental is means tested on their carer’s income. This means that some children in care will be eligible for Medicare Dental but not others. The FCAV believes that a volunteer carers income should be irrelevant when determining access to any Federal Government welfare benefit or scheme.

The FCAV has focused on improving Medicare Dental access advocacy because a high number of children in care have poor oral health. Children in care generally have high health needs because of the impacts of trauma, neglect and abuse.

Poor oral health is a significant problem in care because many children are likely to have never been to a dentist and with research indicating that only a small number of children in carer have visited a dentist within their first year in the care system. The failure to proactively access oral care services can cause long term and irreversible damage resulting in ongoing pain and expense.

Low attendance at oral health care services is likely to be caused by a complex range of factors including:

  • low priority generally attached to oral health care generally by the community and the sector:
  • expense of oral health services; and
  • long waiting lists for public oral health care services.

The primary strategy for improving oral health is prevention which makes improving early access to dental services essential. Medicare Dental provides eligible children with a $1000 over a two-year period with funding following the child over the two-year funding period.

The FCAV believes that all children in care should be automatically eligible for Medicare Dental because they are highly vulnerable group of children who are known to have poor oral health.