Cuts put bite on dental schemes

Posted in Articles by saraburke on October 21, 2009

Proposals to abolish public funding for treatment is now on the political agenda, writes SARA BURKE

THE FUTURE of all publicly funded dental schemes is in jeopardy in light of growing demand for the services and tightening budgetary circumstances.

The Department of Health and the Department of Social and Family Affairs have both prepared internal memoranda in the past two months on the implications of abolishing two publicly funded dental schemes.

The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) operated by the HSE provides free dental care to over one million adults who are medical card holders.

The Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme (DTBS) provides limited free and some subsidised dental care for more than two million PRSI contributors.

Under both schemes, privately practising dentists reclaim fees for services provided from the public purse. The total budget for these schemes in 2009 is estimated at €150 million.

Unpublished reports seen by The Irish Times reveal that in excess of 10 per cent of these budgets is spent on “inappropriate and fraudulent” claims. Despite knowledge about the potential savings from tackling these claims, senior health officials have failed to act.

The McCarthy report published in July recommended the abolition of the DTBS. In September, the Irish Dental Society lobbied Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin for the scheme to be retained.

The Irish Dental Society presented findings to the Minister from a cost benefit analysis it carried out that maintained the scheme saves more than it costs.

The final draft of national Oral Health Policy, dated July 2009, which has been seen by The Irish Times and remains unpublished, recommends “the DTSS and DTBS be fully merged immediately”.

The Oral Health Policy, which has been years in development but has now been shelved, states that unified schemes would bring about a greater focus on oral health goals and equity for patients while saving administrative costs.

The 2008 Controller and Auditor General Report outlined how proposals were being developed for the introduction of a single integrated computer system to allow payment to be made to dentists working for both the DTBS and the DTSS.

Tue, Oct 20, 2009

© 2009 The Irish Times

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