Litzman predicts free dental care to age 18 by 2016

Deputy health minister also promised to institute basic dental care for the elderly.

February 15, 2012 23:31
2 minute read.
dental care

adult dental care. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

In four years, everyone up to the age of 18 will be entitled to free basic dental care from their health fund, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman predicted on Tuesday at the convention of the National Council for the Child at Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Litzman has also said he would institute basic dental care for the elderly.

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At present, children up to the age of 12 get basic dental care in exchange for nominal fees at their health fund’s dental clinics or outside clinics contracted to do the work; soon this will be expanded to age 14.

But while Litzman has in the past two years declared the program “great success,” there has been criticism of it from senior dentists in academia, arguing that there is no independent supervision aside from a handful of ministry officials.

In addition, Prof. Jonathan Mann – head of community medicine at the Hebrew University- Hadassah School of Dental Medicine – has charged that the ministry refused to allowing academic researchers to study whether the program has been beneficial or did not meet its aims.

Private dentists have said that the heath funds have few or no pediatric dental specialists available to provide service and that dentists are going out of business as their patient load has been depleted because they were excluded from the program. Public health experts have complained that the tens of millions of shekels devoted to the program would have been better spent on preventive dentistry and not treating dental problems after the they develop.

Litzman also commented on teenagers who advocate lowering the age limit under which parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children.

The deputy minister said such suggestions should be examined carefully, as they had many implications.

One could be that the parents of children who make medical decisions by themselves might not be entitled to National Insurance Institute child allotments, Litzman said.

Medical ethics expert Prof. Avraham Steinberg said that in routine medical issues, minors should be given autonomy, but in more complicated ones, a special apparatus should be set up to decide when it is not appropriate for courts to decide. There was a recent case of a girl whose doctors said her hand must be removed surgically to save her life, and she said she understand she had “no choice” but to agree.

But her mother absolutely opposed the operation.

Other difficult issues include abortions, plastic surgery and tattoos that minors want but parents oppose or have not even been informed about.

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