Thursday 23 November 2017

How 'subsidised dentistry and free glasses' benefits is to return this week

Scale and polish dental work will be subsidised by PRSI. Stock Image
Scale and polish dental work will be subsidised by PRSI. Stock Image
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Around 2.5 million people who are covered by PRSI will be entitled to a number of subsidised dental treatments and optical benefits - including a free pair of glasses - from this week.

The scale and polish dental treatment, which was abolished in 2009, has been reintroduced, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty announced yesterday. The maximum charge for the treatment will be €15, while the dentist will receive a fee of €42 from the State.

There will be subsidised treatment for periodontal pockets, a form of gum disease. The free annual examination still applies and is cost-free. The dentist gets €33 from the Department of Social Protection.

For the first time, around 450,000 self-employed and their dependent spouses are included in the scheme.

However, Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the Irish Dental Association, warned the coming weeks could lead to "administrative chaos" for dentists who have been told their payment claims cannot be processed through a new electronic software system for now.

This is because the department's new system designed to deal with the scheme is not up and running to "go live" on time. He said this means an old-fashioned form-filling system for around 1,500 dentists will apply until mid-November.

It means they are not readily able to check if the patient has already got their one-year treatment allowance. If the patient has already availed of the treatment, the dentist will not be paid.

"It is important every effort is made to ensure extra staff are employed and that the system is run efficiently. I have written to the department outlining our concerns. Dentists should not be penalised," he warned.

Meanwhile, PRSI cover will also allow people to get a free pair of glasses along with the free eye exam they were already entitled to.

If they want to upgrade to a more expensive pair of glasses they will get a subsidy of €42.37 or €84.19, depending on whether they are single, bifocal or varifocal lenses.

The free eye examination and the supply of glasses or contacts lenses is allowed for once every two years.

The minister said the scheme will cost over €70m for a full year in 2018.

She added: "Treatment benefits are an important support for those who contribute each week to the  Social Insurance Fund and our commitment to these extended benefits demonstrate a Government committed to supporting people at work, be they employed or self-employed."

Irish Independent

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