Litzman wants inclusion of basic dental services for children in health basket

Deputy health minister: Teeth 'are just like a foot or other part of the body' and need to be cared for.

litzman 248 88 (photo credit: Judy Seigel)
litzman 248 88
(photo credit: Judy Seigel)
Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman has recommended to the new committee to recommend expansion of the basket of health services that some free dental care to children and teenagers - and perhaps to the elderly - be included in the subsidized services provided by the four health funds. Litzman, who appointed the committee of physicians, medical ethicists, public representatives and government and health fund officials, told them in their first session in Jerusalem on Wednesday that it was unfortunate the original plan in the National Health Insurance Bill of 1994 to offer dental care for children was not implemented (due to Treasury opposition). He said that teeth "are just like a foot or other part of the body" and needed to be cared for. Dental disease is directly related with illness in the rest of the body, he said. More than two-thirds of individuals in the lower socioeconomic groups do not get non-emergency dental care largely because of the cost. The deputy minister said he would not insist that the "basket committee" accept his recommendation, but hoped they would allocate some money to dental care provided by the health funds or others. He added that the Israel Dental Association, which has private dentists as the majority of members, had come out against such a proposal. Litzman will also look for other sources of funding in addition to part of the NIS 415 million budgeted for expansion of the budget. "We could carry out some efficiency measures or find other funds," he said, as he managed to persuade the Treasury to cancel the copayment for tipat halav (well-baby) clinic care. A total of 420 different drugs and medical technologies have been proposed by companies for inclusion in the basket in 2010. The volunteer committee, which was asked to set priorities and prepare its recommendations for adding to the basket, is due to complete its work by the middle of December. The committee is chaired by Rambam Medical Center director-general Prof. Rafi Beyar, a leading interventional cardiologist, who said he would take many vacation days to carry out the temporary position. Beyar said he did not welcome pressure from lobbyist organizations that want to get their products into the basket and that he would work solely to help the public. Next year will be the last of the three-year agreement with the Treasury to expand the basket by NIS 415 million. Litzman said he hoped the Finance Ministry would quickly begin negotiations with his ministry to expand it in future years by a set, agreed-upon amount instead of the previous annual practice of pleading for funds. The committee members, a majority of whom did not serve in the previous body, will be coordinated by Dr. Osnat Luxenburg, the head of the Health Ministry's medical technologies branch. The members are Prof. Ehud Grossman, Dr. Ze'ev Aharonson, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, Iris Ginzburg, Prof. Danny Stessman, Prof. Daniel Vardi, Dr. Bracha Zisser, Prof. Elliot Berry, Dr. Roni Gamzu, Prof. Haim Bitterman, Yoel Lipschitz, Prof. Moshe Mittelman, Nurit Dabush, Prof. Avi Porat, Ilan Sofer and Rabbi Moshe Haim Lau. The health system ombudswoman, Etti Semama, is the committee's adviser.