Court blocks dentists’ plea to save free dental treatment

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The High Court has blocked a plea from a group of 25 dentists to stop the Health Service Executive from scrapping free dental care for medical card holders.

The group of dentists applied for an injunction against the HSE changing their contracts; in January, it was announced that budget cuts would be introduced and medical card holders would be stripped of their entitlement to discounted dental care. The decision to change medical card entitlements has also affected dentists, who may see their incomes decrease significantly because patients are choosing to visit the dentist on a much less regular basis. Since the cuts were introduced, both patients and dentists have reacted angrily and a number of dentists have pleaded with the HSE to change their minds.

Prior to the cuts, medical card holders were entitled to discounted dental treatment and free routine check-ups; now, they are allowed one free check-up per year but must pay full rates for treatment.

The Irish Dental Association was disappointed with the result in court yesterday; since the cuts were made, numerous members of the association have condemned the HSE, saying that the provision of care in Ireland would slip far behind other countries. Dentists fear that patients will avoid going to the dentist because they cannot afford the cost of treatment; regular appointments are essential for good oral health because they enable dentists to keep an eye on emerging conditions.

Dentists from the campaigning group said they were extremely disappointed at the court’s decision; many of them fear that they will go out of business because a large proportion of their income used to come from medical card holders.

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