5 October 2011 The Opposition today accused the Gillard Government of carrying out an unwarranted vendetta against hundreds of dentists across Australia.
The Shadow Minister for Health Peter Dutton said the Government’s actions could force the closure of vital dental practices and the loss of services to some of the most in-need patients.
Mr Dutton accused Health Minister Nicola Roxon of seeking to vilify dentists because of Labor’s ideological determination to close the Medicare Chronic Disease Scheme.
The Shadow Minister called for the Government to cease demands for repayment of Medicare benefits from dentists who had treated patients under the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme.
Mr Dutton said it appeared in many cases dentists were being hounded for repayment of benefits where all the services claimed from Medicare had been provided.
“Hundreds of dentists appear to be facing these demands for repayments in cases where they have made slight administrative errors.”
“All dentists are being treated as if they have behaved like criminals when the reality is that they have acted honestly and ethically and provided much needed services for people who would otherwise have to wait for years for treatment in the public dental system.”
Mr Dutton said anyone who had done the wrong thing should face the full consequences of their actions, but to be pressed into bankruptcy for an administrative error was outrageous.
Mr Dutton was speaking at the Brunswick Family Dental Clinic in Melbourne where dentist Dr Helen Arabatzis has been presented with a claim for repayment of more than $700,000 by Medicare.
Dr Arabatzis has said the claim could force closure of the practice which includes eight dentists and a staff of more than 20.
Like many dentists Dr Arabatzis and her colleagues thought they were doing the right thing by providing services to the chronically ill, yet they now find themselves being threatened for doing so.
The Shadow Minister said the Minister and Medicare Australia needed to show perspective and discretion in their actions.
Last year the Gillard Government announced a “Medicare Australia taskforce” to investigate dentists even though the then Minister admitted “most dentists try to do the right thing and that the majority of incorrect claiming is accidental”.
“If that is the case – and it would seem to be – why is Medicare taking the heaviest possible hand in its response, surely administrative errors need to be treated as such and resolution of issues resolved in that light,” Mr Dutton said.
“The fact is the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme has proven hugely successful with, by some estimates, more than a million Australians having received treatment for serious dental problems.”
“Yet Minister Roxon and her Government have sought to paint the scheme as being constantly rorted by dentists with patients not receiving the services that Medicare has been billed for.”
“Minister Roxon must provide details of these so-called ‘rorts’ or she and her government should stop branding dentists as wrongdoers.”