This year's Budget provides few surprises for the dental profession

8 May 2018

The Turnbull Government has handed down its third budget which, as expected, delivered no real surprises for dentists.  

The main points of interests for the profession are as follows. 

Child Dental Benefits Scheme 
The Department of Health is predicting a “decrease (in expenditure) of 7% in real terms over the period 2018-19 to 2021-22" as a result of slower growth in the utilisation of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, a surprising prediction given the ongoing commitment by Government to promotion of the CDBS. There have, however, been no cuts to the current $1000 limit or additional restrictions imposed. 

Veterans Affairs 
The budget papers contain a reference to “Improved Dental and Allied Health” with the Government forecasting a saving of $40.7m through "better targeting of services" by implementing a new ‘treatment cycle’ model of services. Clarification from the Department of Veterans affairs is being sought on what this means in the context of dental services. 

Public Dental Services 
In a pre-budget announcement, the Government indicated that the federal contribution to public dental health services would be cut by around $45 million per annum, a disappointment development that will further impact the oral health of the most disadvantaged Australians. 

Royal Flying Doctor Services 
Funding for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) to improve the delivery of dental services in rural and remote areas had been previously announced and was included in the budget. Under the RFDS contract, these services can only be provided in areas where there are no private services available. If private services do become available, the RFDS will seek to exit that area. 

Medicare Compliance 
Previously, the ADA has become aware that the Professional Services Review panels have received additional attention which is likely the result of the Government providing an additional $9.5 million over five years to improve Medicare compliance and debt recovery. 

Rural health 
The development of a heath workforce distribution demand and supply planning tool which will map patient movement and activity to health practitioner services is a measure intended to inform public health services workforce planning and help better target government resources. 

Initiatives such as a $28 million allocation to improve e-prescribing software systems through a national electronic prescribing system may have some flow-on benefits for dentists. 

Aged Care 
While there are significant changes in funding for aged care, there is no indication of additional funding for oral health care. The establishment of an independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is a promising development that will provide quality oversight in an area where there is some concern about access to dental services. 

For Practice Owners 
The unincorporated small business tax discount rate has increased from 5% to 8% (up to a $1,000 cap). The small business entity turnover threshold has also been lifted from $2 million to $10 million giving extended access to a range of small business tax concessions. 

The $20,000 instant asset write off has been extended by a further year and GST reporting for small business streamlined by reducing the number of questions from 20 to 3. 

Personal Tax  
Income earners below $37,000 will receive between $200 and $530 in tax relief. From July 2018 the top threshold of the 32.5% tax bracket will increase by $3,000 to $90,000, with further changes occurring between 2022 and 2025 in a bid to flatten the tax system.  

Other Areas 
- The allocation of $5 million for an online “baby book” which is aimed at kick-starting a lifelong health record may provide an opportunity to get oral health information to parents.  

- While talk of increased grants from the Medical Research Future Fund is interesting, there is no indication yet that funds have been directed to oral health research. 

- The $1.3 billion National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan sounds promising, but in practice, its focus is on areas such as genomics, research and innovation is yet to be defined.