Call to tighten super rules for medical treatments

Dentists with patient in dental chair. | Newsreel
Private Healthcare Australia is concerned about a spike in Australians accessing superannuation for dental care. | Photo: Prostock Studio (iStock)

The Federal Government is being urged to tighten rules around accessing superannuation for medical treatments to stamp out exploitation.

Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) has noted a spike in Australians accessing super for non-critical treatments.

PHA CEO Dr Rachel David said the trend was lining the pockets of unscrupulous agencies that assisted people to access their super for everything from hair transplants to cosmetic procedures.

“These agencies charge a fee for navigating the paperwork, which most people can do themselves,” Dr David said.

She said there was also concern about the increase in superannuation withdrawals to fund dental care, which was driving up the cost of dentistry for all consumers.

Australian Taxation Office data shows 13,540 Australians were permitted to withdraw $313.4 million from their superannuation for dental treatment last year – a 372 percent increase from $66.4 million five years ago.

“Over the same period, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data shows out of pocket fees for dentistry have surged for the 53 percent of Australians with dental cover, adding to cost of living woes.”

Dr David said the Government needed to tighten rules for early access to superannuation so people could only use it for terminal and life-threatening medical conditions.

“We are very concerned about growing reports of dentists encouraging their patients to access their superannuation for dental care. It is a clear conflict of interest when the dentist can profit from it,” she said.

“This is robbing people of their retirement savings and it is driving up the cost of dental care for all Australians. We know an increasing number of people cannot afford to go to the dentist. We need to address why this is the case rather than creating another problem for the future.

“If a 40-year-old withdraws $20,000 from their superannuation today, they are likely to be at least $100,000 poorer when they reach retirement.”

Dr David said to put downward pressure on dental costs there needed to be an independent website for dentists’ fees so consumers could shop around and mandatory price displays for individual clinics, with fees for common services published on their websites and windows.