New program to give needy elderly subsidized dental care

Pensioners Affairs grabs spotlight for inter-ministry plan.

rafi eitan 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
rafi eitan 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Needy pensioners will be able to get dental care at a reduced cost thanks to a NIS 10 million subsidy over three years by the Ministry for Pensioner Affairs. Women over 60 and men over 65 who are referred to the Welfare and Social Services Ministry will be eligible to get a maximum NIS 3,400 worth of dental care at 34 mobile Health Ministry and regional public dental clinics around the country. The pensioners will pay a copayment of up to 20 percent "according to criteria set down by the welfare authorities." Although the agreement was reached as a joint project by the three ministries a month ago, the Pensioners Affairs Ministry made the announcement alone on Monday - taking the credit - after the Knesset Finance Committee approved the expenditure. Asked to comment, Health Ministry dental services director Dr. Shlomo Zusman said he "did not know why" the news was not released jointly. Health Ministry spokeswoman Einav Shimron-Greenboim said that Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri's media adviser, Tal Harel, was supposed to handle publicity and would check why it was not done. Harel commented that it was "not proper that the Pensioners Affairs Ministry announced the project unilaterally and not as a joint statement" as the project would be implemented by all three ministries. Dental care is not included in the basket of health services, even though dental disease has a significant effect on a patient's health, well-being and functioning. A third of the funds are slated to go to provide subsidized dental care for institutionalized elderly who cannot afford it, while the rest will help old people who live on their own, the Pensioners Affairs Ministry said. "We hope to help all those elderly who need dental treatment who cannot pay for all of it. It is very important not only to ensure the physical security of the elderly, but also their health and quality of life," said ministry director-general Dr. Avi Bitzur. The Pensioners' Ministry added that the dental project "is one of many" that it had set out to do when Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan established the ministry. Other plans include programs for Jews, Arabs, Holocaust survivors and new immigrants in the fields of health, welfare, and leisure, as well as the promotion of housing solutions for the elderly.