IDA criticises “cynical budget”

Association chief accuses government of actively undermining dental care provision

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has called the government’s decision to leave spending on the medical card scheme at 2008 levels as “cynical” and “inexcusable”.

The association has criticised the Finance Minister’s budget decision by pointing out that by the end of 2011 there are expected to be 350,000 more people holding medical cards, bringing the grand total up to 1.6 million.

Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the IDA, accused the government of moving from a position where it offered minimal support to dentistry, to one where it was now actively undermining the provision of care to those who could least afford it.

He said: “The Medical Card scheme wasn’t perfect but it provided a basic dental care framework for the poorer members of society. Now we have the frankly disgraceful situation where what is a limited emergency treatment service is now being stretched beyond breaking point. 2008 funding cannot provide any semblance of a dental service for 1.6 million medical card holders next year, with the result that hundreds of thousands of people will be denied routine treatments.

“We find it particularly inexplicable that the government has decided to reduce in real terms the level of spending on dental care for medical card holders. Recently the ombudsman’s report on care for nursing home residents also addressed the decision by the government in the last budget to limit for the first time the level of funding for dental care to be provided for medical card holders.”

The IDA has also criticised the restriction of the PRSI dental benefit to a check up only when people are now being asked to pay up to 7 per cent of income towards the new universal social charge. “Dental benefits were the most tangible benefits of the PRSI scheme. The downgrading of this scheme is totally unacceptable,” Hourihan continued.