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Recommended reading on oral health, private health insurance policy and the baby bonus changes

For those with an interest in oral health, private health insurance policy, and the changes to the baby bonus announced last week – there is plenty of new reading at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library’s FlagPost blog (as summarised briefly below).

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Not much to smile about
Amanda Biggs writes:

Two new dental reports provide a timely overview of the oral health of those with chronic illnesses compared to the broader population, and on the oral health of children and their families.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) publication Chronic conditions and oral health reveals disparities in oral health between people with a chronic condition and those without.

The publication reports on a survey that measured five oral health impacts: toothache, discomfort with appearance of teeth or mouth, avoidance of some foods due to tooth problems, experience of broken or chipped teeth, and oral facial pain. Two measures of tooth loss were also reported: average number of missing teeth and inadequate dentition (fewer than 21 teeth).

The second report also by AIHW, Families and their oral health, provides information on the dental health of Australian children and shows how closely this is related to the dental health of their parents. Some 16.7 per cent of children surveyed had experienced dental problems, such as toothache and or avoidance of some foods in the previous year. In families where children had such dental problems, some 23.2 per cent of their parents reported similar dental problems over the same period. Conversely, for children who reported having no dental problems during the last year, 86.1 per cent of their parents also had no dental problems.

Together, these reports can be seen as timely reminders of the disparities that exist between different groups in terms of their dental health. They may add weight to calls for increased funding for dental health of children of lower income families as well as those with chronic conditions. It remains to be seen if the recently announced Dental Reform package, will be sufficient to fully address these inequities.

• The full article is here, and for more reading on oral health, see these previous Croakey posts.

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Overview of changes to private health insurance policy
Amanda Biggs writes:

The Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) included yet more changes to private health insurance rebate (PHIR) arrangements, on top of those recently implemented. These are expected to deliver savings of $1.09 billion over three years which will be used to offset the cost of the Dental Health Reform package announced in August this year.

Instead of being automatically inked to premium increases, the level of the PHIR will be based on an indexation arrangement. From April 2013, the rebate amount will be indexed to either movement in the consumer price index (CPI) or the percentage increase in premiums for private hospital cover, whichever is the lower figure.

It is not immediately clear how this measure will be implemented, although it will require legislative changes. The Treasurer did not specify for example, whether an individual health insurer’s premium increases would be compared with the CPI, or if the average premium increase approved across the industry would be the comparator. Nor is it clear which CPI figure would be used, that of the past year or the forecast CPI.

The Government may be hoping that this move will also prompt private health insurers to further limit their future premium increases. Faced with the prospect of their members receiving lower rebates, health insurers may seek to maintain value for their members by applying for lower premium increases each year. But as this previous Flagpost noted, health insurers have limited scope to control the cost of their premiums. Many of the drivers of higher health costs—such as an ageing population, more expensive medical technologies and increased prevalence of chronic diseases— are outside their direct control. A range of regulatory controls on portability and community rating also limit their capacity to control claim costs.

In addition, the private health insurance rebate will be removed from the Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading on premiums which applies when people delay taking out private health insurance until after their 31st birthday.

• The full article is here and for more reading on private health insurance policy, see these previous Croakey posts.

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The plasma myth and the baby bonus
Luke Buckmaster writes:

The Australian Government has announced that it intends to reduce the amount of Baby Bonus payable in respect of second or subsequent children from 1 July 2013. This is expected to result in savings of around $170 million per year ($504.9 million over the forward estimates).

According to the Government, this change recognises that costs associated with second or subsequent newborns are not as great as those associated with the first.

This post takes a look at what is known about the impact of newborns on household budgets, focusing in particular on any significant changes in spending on second or subsequent children.

Notably, the available evidence suggests that there is no significant increase in expenditure on electronic goods by families with newborns. This challenges the widespread view that couples spend their Baby Bonus on adult-focused consumer goods such as plasma televisions.

• The full article is here and more Croakey coverage of the MYEFO is here.

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