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News / July 17, 2009

Report recommends canning Dental Treatment Benefits Scheme

by Guy Hiscott

The Irish Dental Association has expressed deep shock following the publication yesterday afternoon of An Bord Snip Nua.

The report suggests that the Dental Treatment Benefits Scheme (DTBS) be abolished.

Indeed, The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and expenditure Programmes Volume II states: ‘Treatment Benefit is funded by payments from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) and contributes to the costs of dental, optical treatment and hearing aids. The Group holds the view that given the other pressures on the SIF (such as unemployment and pension payments) continuation of the scheme is no longer affordable. The Group also notes that this scheme may have contributed to higher prices for dental and optical benefits. The full year saving for this measure is €92m.’

In a press release, Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the IDA, stated that dental services in Ireland are the most under-funded section of the health services and the abolition of the DTBS would remove one of the very few financial supports given to patients seeking dental treatment.

Mr Hourihan went on to point out that what essentially amounts to discouraging dental visits may well, in the longer-term, lead to higher costs for the State dental services and would certainly impact negatively on oral health in general.

The IDA also makes the point that it is naive for the authors of the report to assume that they can agree changes in the health services without engaging with the representative bodies of health professionals.

Trade unions and various lobby groups have reacted angrily to the recommendations of An Bord Snip Nua.

Some public sector trade unions are threatening industrial action if the Government tries to press ahead with major cuts pay and staff numbers.