Our receptionist often gets asked whether we bulk bill. Unfortunately, bulk billing does not exist for dentists in Australia. Bulk billing only applies to doctors in private practice and not dentists.
So what is bulk billing and how does it work? Basically, it is having Medicare pay for your healthcare. Medicare will pay for consultations and treatments at the doctor. The doctor submits a claim to get paid by Medicare and the patient doesn’t have to pay themselves. Before the digital age which has allowed on the spot claiming for each case, the doctor used to wait till they accumulated a bulk amount of these claims before billing Medicare. Hence, the term bulk billing was coined.
Unfortunately, this process for doctors does not apply to dentists in private practice. To see a dentist in Australia, you have to pay for it yourself. You can join a health fund with dental cover and they can help pay your bill, but you have to pay the health fund a membership fee. So joining a health fund may or may not be worthwhile depending on how much you pay for it and how much you can claim back.
If you have a healthcare card, you may be eligible for certain dental treatments at a public dental hospital. There are lengthy waiting lists for general dental treatments. If you have an emergency such as a toothache, you must go to the dental hospital early in the morning and line up to get a number. If you are lucky enough to get a number, you will be seen that day. If not, you may have to go back the next day.
There are two special government schemes where Medicare will pay for dental treatment at a private dentist. If you are a veteran, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will issue you a card which usually allows you all dental treatments. The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) allows eligible children up to a $1000 to use on dental treatment over a two year period. However, not all treatments are covered.