The cabinet decided Sunday to approve the inclusion of free dental care for children ages eight and under in the standard health basket. The move to include dental care was promoted by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.
In addition, the cabinet decided to add 11 million shekels to the health basket for 2011.
Litzman expressed hope that the change will be put into effect as early as July 1. He also hopes to gain cabinet approval for a similar step: the inclusion of free dental treatment for all citizens over the age of 70.
While twice-a-year checkups, x-rays and cleanings will be free of charge, the health funds will continue to charge for services such as fillings and extractions. However, such treatments will be heavily subsidized, and are expected to cost just 20 to 40 shekels.
Providing free dental care for children ages 0-8 is expected to cost the state 150 million shekels a year. The service will be paid for in part by transferring 67 million shekels from the basket of medications provided in the standard health basket.
Currently, health funds operate a total of 200 dental clinics, while there are an estimated 5,000 independent clinics. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed Litzman to ensure that the free dental coverage will be provided to patients at either public or independent clinics, explaining, “There must be healthy and open competition in providing dental care to Israel's children.”