“The latest circular from the HSE limiting the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) will have a dramatic impact on Older People”, Ms Hayes CEO of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament said today. “As well as the detrimental health and welfare aspects, it could result in costs to pensioners of between €230 and €400 per year according to figures from the Irish Dental Association.”
The DTSS provides medical card holders with basic dental treatment and ensures that medical card holders receive pain relief, preventative treatment, denture services and emergency care. Budget 2010 limited DTSS expenditure to €63million at a time of rising demand. The HSE’s April circular could mean that 1.6 million medical card holders may be denied routine treatments such as fillings and extractions.
The Department of Health’s own figures show that people over 65 are by far the biggest users of the DTSS and will therefore be the hardest hit by this latest cutback. Almost €12 million (25.5%) of total payments for treatments was for those aged 65 or over; even though only 14% of this age group used the DTSS in 2003 (the latest figures publicly available).
“The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament welcomes the trend in the general population of better and increased teeth retention for Older People, but they are still the age cohort with the most missing teeth and therefore require the most dentures and denture repairs”, said Ms. Hayes. “This cutback again hits the most vulnerable. Older People are entitled to receive dental treatment which ensures they can live free from oral pain, with the ability to eat good food and speak and even sing a song or two. Cuts in this basic service just do not make financial sense as regular dental treatment is most important in older age and can be a further useful monitoring tool in the healthy living which keeps all older people healthy and active. Delayed early treatment may require more expensive treatment later.”
Taking the average of €230 and €400 it appears that older people will have to provide an extra €330 per year for dental treatment to add to the additional costs of the carbon tax, the introduction of prescription charges and a decrease or abolition in waivers for waste charges as well as VAT on local authority charges to name but a few.
The Minister must act now to stop the slow drip of the removal of the universal benefits of the medical card to Older People. Many of today’s pensioners endured poor conditions in their youth with poor food and little or no dental care. In older age they must not be deprived again.