The scrapping of the 18-euro subsidy for dentist visits during the recession has led to a decline in the health of Estonians' oral cavities, and policy-makers are now mulling the introduction of discounts for the socioeconomically disadvantaged, a daily reported.
Although the universal subsidy is not expected to be restored, Eesti Päevaleht reported that the University of Tartu has completed work on a policy paper that will used by the Health Insurance Fund to decide what benefits will be introduced.
An annual patient satisfaction survey conducted by the Health Insurance Fund (most recent data from 2012) showed that 59 percent of the population said the price of dental care was preventing them from visiting a dentist. Only 36 percent of Estonians followed dental association guidelines and saw a dentist at least once a year, down from 42 percent in 2010 and 40 percent in 2011. Of the people who skipped the annual checkup, 41 percent said it was due to financial reasons. That reason was cited most often by over-50 and non-Estonians.
The Health Insurance Fund proceeded to order an analysis from the University of Tartu, which said the single biggest problem was that dental care was not equally available to adults because of the financial disparity. (Children and teens receive largely free dental care, something that was not touched during the recession and is still considered a priority.)
The Health Insurance Fund board has promised to involve dentists in the final phase of the decision-making.
Marek Vink, a member of the board of the Dental Association, told EPL: "We support the restoration of the dental compensation if that is what it takes. Of course it could be better targeted at less well-off people, but the equal treatment principle enshrined in our insurance system limits that. I would personally direct taxpayer money to prevention of all oral diseases, which would help all social groups equally."