On Thursday 19 October 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the need to put dental into Medicare. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.
You shouldn't have to choose between feeding your kids, paying your rent and taking care of your teeth. I want to thank all of the Ryan locals who signed my petition to put dental into Medicare, and I call on the federal government to listen. Each year, Australians spend over $6 billion on dental care, with the average household forking out $647 in out-of-pocket expenses. In this unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, this is simply too much for many people. Four in ten Australians skip seeing the dentist because of the cost. You shouldn't need to be flush with cash to fix a sore tooth or get regular check-ups. The recent Senate inquiry into access to dental care in its interim report confirmed that, indeed, a significant proportion of the community only seek dental treatment in emergency situations and that a quarter of Australia's population would have trouble covering a $200 dental bill.
Unfortunately, the lack of treatment has dire consequences. Untreated tooth and gum problems can lead to further health issues, including deadly heart conditions and pregnancy complications. These preventable conditions lead to 83,000 hospitalisations annually, and a staggering 750,000 general practitioner appointments each year are attributed to dental problems.
Fully covering dental in Medicare would save lives and relieve pressure on our desperately underfunded GPs and overcrowded public hospital system. Bringing dental into Medicare is possible. The Greens successfully negotiated with the former Gillard Labor government to bring dental into Medicare for kids, helping hundreds of thousands of families since then. Over the next 10 years, the federal government intend to spend $313 billion in tax cuts for the very wealthy. That's tens of billions in tax breaks for fossil fuel corporations and property investors. The money is there to put dental into Medicare.