Free Dental Care for Children From July

Dan Even
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Dan Even

Starting in July, children 12 and under are expected to receive state-funded dental care, according to a plan presented yesterday by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. The plan is set to gradually expand to cover children up to age 18.

Litzman said the plan will include initial preventative care, treatment of injuries to teeth, fillings and crowns, but is not expected to cover expensive procedures such as orthodontia, permanent crowns and other advanced treatments.

The deputy health minister estimated the cost of the initial stage of the program at NIS 150 million and said the budget sources for the dental coverage plan had not been finalized. At this point, NIS 65 million has been reallocated from this year's state funding for medications, leading to public protest. Another NIS 30 million has been taken from funding for school dental programs. It was also determined that small patient co-payments, similar the cost of medications, would be paid by the children's parents.

Litzman said he had managed to reduce the cost of the program initially presented to the Health Ministry by 50 percent, by relying on the prices for dental care charged by the health maintenance organizations and by organizations that help the needy. He expects that dental care for children will also continue to be provided by charitable organizations.

Full details of the state-funded dental plan will be presented by Litzman to the cabinet within the next week and a half, and he said he thought implementation would begin in July. He added that once the program is in place, the HMOs would be asked to reduce the cost of supplemental coverage by removing their free dental coverage for children.

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