Health Ministry allocates funds to cover basic dental care up to 10th grade

Decision dependent on Treasury agreement to provide funding.

dental metro 88 224 (photo credit: )
dental metro 88 224
(photo credit: )
Although the National Health Insurance Law of 1994 requires that all children aged five to 18 receive a basket of dental services, including free examinations, follow-up and even treatments, 58 percent of the municipalities and local authorities provide no such services and others give only partial care. Now the Health Ministry has agreed to allocate NIS 30 million a year for some services without local authorities having to cover part of the costs - but only if it receives the money from the Treasury. The ministry agreed to subsidize such treatments in response to a petition filed with the High Court of Justice on the issue by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights. The court has not yet ruled on the petition. The ministry, however, says it will fund the services nationally if the economic arrangements bill - which would allocate the NIS 30m. to cover dental services from kindergarten to 10th grade - is passed. Until now, the ministry has paid two-thirds of the cost of basic preventive care, and the municipalities and local authorities paid one-third, says ministry dental services director Dr. Shlomo Zusman. But 58% of the local authorities never set up municipal dental clinics or were not willing to provide dental care to their children. "We hope that since we will cover the costs, all the municipalities and local authorities will provide the services. There are enough dentists to provide it, and if they don't have their own city clinics, they can make arrangements," Zusman said. There have been two levels of services until now - one offering prevention of dental disease such as an annual examine of children, a written notice to parents about their dental health, a free toothbrush and toothpaste and, if there was time, lessons in class. The second level included first aid against pain, fillings and extractions, but not root canal work or crowns. For the second level, parents have had to pay NIS 30 a year. He estimated that only about 450,000 - or one-third - of Israel's children in the relevant age group received any dental care from their municipalities or local councils. Supervision of the authorities' performance in providing dental care to children has been carried out by the dental service's four district dentists - all of whom work half time, Zusman said when asked. During the current school year, said Zusman, 73 out of a total of 250 local authorities and municipalities provided such services. But the dental services chief conceded that the municipalities that offered dental services did not necessarily provide them to all neighborhoods. Wealthier municipalities were much more likely to treat their children. But in Jerusalem, for example, few, if any, Arab children in eastern Jerusalem and only some of the haredi children received dental care. Zusman said his department "did the best supervision we were able to provide by getting monthly reports from municipalities and surveying parents," but it rarely, if ever, examined the mouths of children who reportedly received treatment. The Health Ministry has been severely criticized by the state comptroller for the level of pupils' dental care.