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After learning that Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman intends to push for the inclusion of some dental treatment for young children and the elderly in the basket of health services, two health funds jumped Wednesday to announce what they will provide.
Maccabi Health Services, the second-largest insurer, said that all Israelis up to the age of 18 - no matter what health fund they are members of - is eligible to receive a free checkup at its Maccabident subsidiary.
It is available even to the minority of Israelis who do not have any supplementary health insurance, said fund director-general Ehud Kokia.
Maccabi said the offer is a "first step" in its plan to "significantly expand" its dental services for members. Three years ago, Maccabi started to offer free dental care to the preschool children of members having supplementary health insurance policies.
Meanwhile, Clalit Health Services, the largest health fund, also announced that it was offering a basket of free dental services to members up to the age of 18 with its supplementary insurance policy and reductions on some services, such as implants and orthodontia, for 50 percent to 70% less.
Clalit director-general Eli Depes said his "breakthrough" program includes over 150 different treatments, including root canal, fillings and extractions, free to minors whose parents have supplementary health insurance policies.
The dental health of Israelis is known to be among the worst in the developed world. The National Health Insurance Law of 1994 included in the universal basket of medical services free dental care for schoolchildren, but it was never implemented, and the health funds preferred for many years to regard dental care as not part of medical care.
Now that concept is changing, as it becomes clearer that poor dental health affects systemic health and that many members neglect their mouths because they can't afford dental care, fear it or are unaware of its importance.