The Irish Dental Association in a Pre-Budget 2017 submission today called on the Government to reform and expand the Med 2 Scheme which allows patients claim tax relief for prescribed dental treatments. This scheme traditionally offered access and affordability to people who have limited or no access to medical card or PRSI dental benefits. However, in January 2009, the state restricted relief which could be claimed against the costs of dental treatment to the standard rate under the Med 2 scheme, thereby halving the value of the support offered to patients. IDA Chief Executive, Fintan Hourihan described the move as “fundamentally flawed, lacking foresight and, which ultimately meant the immediate withdrawal of reliefs towards the cost of dental treatment for patients worth almost €30m per annum”.
Mr Hourihan continued, “These cuts have had a very real impact on the level of access to dental care which is not sustainable. It is fast coming to the point where lack of affordability is completely undermining accessibility to treatment to the detriment of the oral health of the nation”.
Mr. Hourihan described dental care in this country as “the poor relation” compared to the supports provided to ensure patients get access to hospital and primary medical care. “There are huge merits in expanding the Med 2 scheme which will generate greater access and attendance, improve dental health and ultimately bolster economic activity and returns to the Exchequer.”
Specific options for reform of the Med 2 Scheme advocated by dentists include:-
- Expanding the definition of treatments to be covered by the Med 2 Scheme to include essential preventive treatments.
- Restoration of marginal rate relief to all treatments.
- Provision of marginal rate reliefs on certain treatments.
- Provision of marginal rate reliefs up to a specified spending ceiling per annum
- Provision of marginal rate reliefs subject to a ceiling within a multi-annual period per annum
PRSI Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme
The IDA is also calling on the Government to reinstate preventative and restorative care under the Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme for PRSI payers in budget 2017. In 2009, the scheme was restricted to a one item scheme – the annual oral examination. Currently, over 2 million PRSI contributors and their dependent spouses remain eligible for the free dental examination.
“The economics of the current scheme just don’t make sense and we need to reinstate preventative and restorative care under this scheme urgently for PRSI payers. “Every case of delayed treatment will cost the state more in the long-run and results in unnecessary pain and suffering on the public at large”, Mr. Hourihan said.
The IDA has also recommended that in the event that a sugar tax be introduced in the next budget that income generated by the tax be diverted towards an oral health programme in order to help combat the one chronic disease that is definitively associated with dietary sugar intake, dental cavities.
Download the full submission here.