Free PRSI dental and optical benefits partly restored
Dental and optical benefits for people covered by PRSI,which were drastically reduced during austerity years, are partly restored in the Budget and also extended to the self-employed.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said it is planned that in addition to a free dental examination annually, there will be an entitlement to a free scale and polish once a year.
In addition to the free eye exam once every two years, this group will also be entitled to a free pair of spectacles or a contribution of €42 to the cost of upgraded spectacles every two years.
There are an estimated 2.2 million PRSI Class A employees, and around 500,000 of their dependent spouses, who will be eligible for these expanded schemes in 2017. Another 205,000 self-employed people will also be brought into the net for the first time.
A spokesman for the Department of Social Protection said : "The date for commencing the increases will be included in the Social Welfare Bill when it's published in two weeks' time."
In the meantime, further discussions will take place between the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform.
Any increase in the rates depends on the Social Welfare Bill passing through the Dáil and the Seanad, and the Government does not have a majority in either House.
Also for the first time, the self-employed will have access to the Medical Appliances Scheme, which provides €500 towards the cost of a hearing aid. This scheme is currently only available to employees.
The Association of Optometrists Ireland welcomed the measure, which takes effect in March. However, it said the fee paid to optometrists for eye exams is very low at €22.51 and far below the recommended level of €34-€50.
It called for this to be addressed in future budgets. Over-reliance on hospitals for routine eye-care is expensive.