Dentists still pull high wage despite PRSI scheme cuts
FOUR dentists earned more than €100,000 each for treating patients under a subsidised state scheme last year, despite dramatic cuts.
The top-earning dentist in the scheme for patients covered by PRSI was Colm Smith in Cootehill, Cavan, who earned €180,385.
He was followed by Joseph Barry, Dooradoyle, Limerick, whose practice earned €133,963, according to figures obtained by the Irish Independent.
The third-highest earner was Denis Nagle, Mallow, Cork, who received €117,476, and in fourth place was Tom Guinan of Dooradoyle, Limerick, who earned €104,278.
Three other dentists earned between €80,000 and €97,429 from the PRSI scheme which is administered by the Department of Social Protection.
They were: Eamonn Kearney, Grand Parade, Cork (€97,429); Terence Fox, Letterkenny, Donegal (€87,539); and Elizabeth Johnston, Drogheda, Louth (€81,831).
There are 1,679 dentists signed up to treat PRSI holders and they receive their payments monthly.
The dentists' earnings contrasted with a top payout of more than €228,300 to a dental practice in Louth in 2009 when PRSI holders were entitled to claim for a range of benefits.
Budget 2010 slashed the number of benefits people covered by PRSI could claim for free or at a discount from their dentist or optician.
Since January 2010 the only benefit they have under the scheme is a free examination, leaving people to pay the cost of other treatments out of their own pockets.
Previously people covered by PRSI were entitled to the six-monthly clean and polish free of charge and those earning under €65,000 have also seen their access to discounted extractions or fillings where the State pays the majority of the cost.
It has left private patients paying average prices of €50 for a scale and polish, €70 for a routine filling and €65 for a basic extraction.
The benefits will not be restored in the upcoming Budget despite being criticised by the government parties while in Opposition.
The financial blow was softened for dentists last year because patients, who made appointments for treatments before the end of December 2009, were entitled to a full set of benefits for the next three months.
However, new figures show dentists earnings will feel the full brunt of the dilution in benefits this year and the payments have plummeted.
The payments to dentists to the end of September this year were €6.7m compared to €25m for the same period in 2010.