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Dental benefits are not being claimed up in Australia


By Georgia Parsonson

A study conducted by the University of Queensland (UQ) and Telethon Kids Institute has found that almost 70% of low-income households have not claimed up to $1000 in child dental benefits.

Professor Luke Connelly of UQ’s Centre for Business and Economics of Health observed that mothers played a significant role in choosing not to take up these dental benefits. According to him, mothers with high-risk lifestyles or poor mental health were far less likely to claim the dental benefits available for their children.

“Together, maternal mental health issues and risk-taking behaviour further reduced the uptake rate of available benefits by 36%,” he said.

“While we looked for similar variables from the father’s side, such as impacts from depression, smoking or drinking, they were statistically insignificant.

“We also found children who lived in owned homes were 19% more likely to utilise available dental health benefits than those in rented homes.”

The Australian Government’s Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) provides $1000 of funding available over a two year period for children between the ages of 2 and 17 for treatment, including examinations, X-rays, cleaning, fillings, and dental extractions.

The CDBS replaced Medicare’s Teen Dental Plan in 2014, which offered an annual coverage of only $150 for children aged 12 – 15.

“To be eligible for the CDBS, families must be receiving Family Tax Benefit A, which is currently an adjusted household income of below $80,000 per annum, or another relevant Australian Government payment,” Professor Connelly said.

“Of those eligible for dental health benefits, only 31.4% took up the offer.

“In order for these types of initiatives to have their intended effect, it is important we understand how uptake occurs and identify groups where large numbers don’t use benefits.

“Findings from the research suggest that uptake may be improved by providing reminders about eligibility, along with previous recommendations to make the eligibility letters look more like vouchers, to convey the intention of the scheme.”

The UQ and TKI study examined data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. It is a study that began in 2004 and includes a thorough analysis of children’s developmental outcomes and their socio-economic and developmental backgrounds.

“The sample we used was comprised of more than 10,000 children, from the 2016 survey, when children and parents had been interviewed up to seven times,” Professor Connelly said.

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