The government is not currently considering adding dental care to the list of services reimbursed by the Health Insurance Fund, but there are several plans on the table to make expensive dental treatments cheaper for people, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said.
Kiik said there have already been many proposals to improve the availability of dental care services to people with lower incomes. "We have many ideas, which are hopefully eventually covered financially," Kiik told ERR on Tuesday.
Among the options is the ability to use dental benefits from the previous year, if it was not used then, making the state aid €80 instead of the yearly €40. A yearly €40 increase is also considered.
While these dental care benefits options are still being considered, one change will enter into force from next year - unemployed people and people receiving subsistence benefits will see their dental care benefits increase to €85 on a 15 percent deductible.
An audit recently released by the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) showed that more than 40 percent of the adult population has not been to a dentist in five years. The €40 benefit is not enough for people with lower incomes to visit the dentist, the audit stated.
The National Audit Office stated that the system needs a more need-based approach, which is why auditor general Ines Metsalu-Nurminen recommended the conditions of dental care benefits be changed.
"There are two paths here. Do we assess the need for treatment separately and the benefits are linked to an objective need, meaning the more a person needs dental care, the more the state supports them. Or do we link the benefits to income, so that those with lower incomes have a greater chance of receiving benefits," Metsalu-Nurminen said.
Dental care was covered with health insurance until 2002, but was made chargeable because of its cost to the state. Why not turn back the clock and begin providing people with free health care, if the state is now richer than ever before?
Calculations by the Health Insurance Fund show that free dental care would come at a 9 percent increase to the €1.7 billion health care budget, meaning a total of around €156 million.
Health minister Kiik said he would not rush to add dental care to the list of reimbursable services, but the matter could be discussed again in the future.
"This would have to come with a thorough reform to health care funding. I will not rule out that this might be picked up at some point to make the system more sustainable against inflation and population ageing. If we go changing and reforming funding, it would also be possible to go over dental services. We will continue with the current model, it is possible to support dental services through benefits and other measures while not bringing it into health insurance completely. This would require a more thorough discussion," Kiik said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste