By Hayley Halpin
Irish self-employed people are due to receive free dental benefits for the first time this week, through new measure introduced by the Department of Social Protection.
The self-employed, approximately half a million in total including farmers and their dependent spouses, were previously excluded from receiving a free annual check-up with their dentist or a free annual eye test, on the grounds that they paid a different category of PRSI to the unemployed.
However, the move, which was first announced by the Department of Social Protection in last October’s budget, will entitle the self-employed and farmers to the above benefits.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar signed the enabling legislation last week. While the scheme was due to commence yesterday, March 27th, the department had not clarified whether the scheme was officially in place at that stage.
October’s budget also saw the Government signal the re-introduction of an annual scale and polish treatment and protracted periodontal treatment, which were discontinued in 2010.
According to The Irish Times, it has been estimated that €500 million worth of cuts have been made to free dental benefits since 2010, as subsidies for cleaning, fillings, root canal treatments and other preventative and treatment works were abolished.
Minister Varadkar spoke in the Dáil last week and said that the re-introduction of the free annual scale and polish and protracted periodontal treatment will be implemented in October 2017.
Dentists operating the scheme, which is currently available to the unemployed, have received letters from the department informing them of the extension of the scheme to the self-employed.
Chair of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) General Dental Practitioner group, Dr. Tom Rodgers, welcomed the move.
“It is a small but welcome first step in restoring State supports towards the costs of dental treatment previously available under the PRSI dental scheme,” he said.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Dr. Rodgers said that the new funding being made available by the State “is still only a fraction of the amount cut since 2009.”
“IDA has committed to further engagement with the department on other changes to the scheme and is calling on the Government to restore further treatments on a grant in aid basis in the 2018 budget,” he said.