Free dental care only for children up to 7 in Litzman’s plan

'Post' learns budget lacking for deputy health minister's “free dental care for children.”

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s program for “free dental care for children” will cover basic treatment for babies and children only up to the age of seven, unless more money can be obtained from the Treasury, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
At present, around NIS 150 million to NIS 190m. has been budgeted, including the NIS 65m. that Litzman transferred, amid much controversy, from the addition to the 2010 basket of medical technologies five months ago.
Although Litzman had originally promised the Knesset and the press that he would unveil his “free dental care for children and teenagers” by the end of February, he extended it to the end of March, saying more time was needed. By the end of the first week in April, nothing had been announced, and the ministry provided no details.
However, at a meeting of the Public Coalition for Dental Care, which was organized by the Israel Parents Association and a variety of other voluntary organizations in Yad Sarah’s Jerusalem headquarters on Wednesday, Litzman was quoted as saying the program would begin at the start of June and would cover all children from birth to the age of 12. He said he hoped enough money would be allocated to expand this to the age of 15 and later to 18. He said the ministry was also “preparing to include people over 70” as well.
The ministry spokeswoman’s office, however, told the Post that the program would “begin in July, not in June.”
Asked about the program and the delay, Health Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev – who heads the ministry committee preparing the child dental care program – told the Post on Wednesday night that the “current cutoff point” for the free dental care would be age seven, but that he hoped more money would be granted by the Treasury to raise that cutoff point.
Critics have claimed that proper dental treatment for minors would cost a minimum of hundreds of millions of shekels a year.
Asked about the fact that the health funds provide some or even most dental care for children whose parents have supplementary health insurance policies – three-quarters of the population – Lev said that those dental services now provided free to such policy holders would be covered by the ministry program and provided to all, up to the stipulated cutoff point. The money allocated for such care among supplementary health insurance-holders would have to be used by the health funds for other services, he said.
“The health funds are ready to provide this dental service for children. The question is mostly how much money will be available and at what prices [to the ministry] they will be provided,” he said.
Negotiations are being conducted between the deputy health minister and the Finance Ministry over this, Lev said.
Thefree dental care will be provided to children under the cutoff agesolely by the health funds’ dental service subsidiaries and not byprivate dentists, Lev stated.
“The treatments will include care to preserve teeth, such as treating cavities, but not orthodontics,” he said.
Meanwhile,Litzman and various health officials are due to appear at aninvitation-only forum at Sheba Medical Center on Thursday afternoon todiscuss his free dental care program.