READERS should mark down Friday, November 30.
It is the day a dental program that has allowed more than 1.5 million Australians to access treatment will close.
The Gillard government, with the assistance of the independents, has rebuffed Coalition attempts to stop it closing the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme (CDDS).
This scheme was introduced in government by the then-health minister Tony Abbott.
It enabled Australians who suffered from illnesses such as cancer or diabetes to receive dental treatment up to $4250 in Medicare benefits as part of the management of their illness.
I understand the government is looking at its bottom line and looking to make budget savings, just as a Coalition government will need to.
However, the CDDS will close at the end of November and will not be replaced by the government’s more limited program for adults until July 2014.
That is a 19-month waiting period.
For children, whose benefits will be cut from $4250 to $1000 over two years, it will be a 13-month wait.
Only those who can afford to pay will get dental treatment in the interim but most can’t afford it.
Eighty per cent of the people on the scheme are concession-card holders such as pensioners.
The less well-off will go to the back of the queue in the public system, or not get treatment at all.
Even if dental treatment is under way, it will cease effective November 30.
At the time of writing, almost 14,000 Australians had signed an online petition calling for the scheme to be saved, but the government is more intent on its bottom line, not the wellbeing of the vulnerable.