Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (468)

Mark Ward

Question:

468. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has considered extending the benefits under the PRSI system to include counselling and psychotherapy. [8764/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Payment of Treatment Benefit is provided for under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. Under the Treatment Benefit scheme, dental, optical and aural services are provided to insured employees, the self-employed, and retired people who have the required number of qualifying Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. An estimated 2.25 million insured contributors qualify for Treatment Benefit. To qualify, people must have paid class A, E, P, H or S social insurance (PRSI) contributions.

Qualified persons can avail of a range of treatments, either free of charge or part-funded. Under the Scheme, a person may qualify for:

- Dental benefit - annual oral examination and a payment a scale and polish or periodontal treatment

- Optical benefit - free eyesight test every 2 years and a grant towards glasses or contact lenses.

- Medical appliances (primarily hearing aids with a limited number of medically required contact lenses) – grants are available towards the cost of appliances every four years and towards the cost of repairs

Overall, the Department spent €92.8 million on Treatment Benefit in 2019, in respect of over 1.3 million completed treatment claims. In addition, it re-imbursed the HSE €8.65 million in respect of people who were dual qualified for dental and optical treatment, bringing the total cost of the Scheme to €101.45 million. Expenditure was slightly lower in 2020 due to the closure of most services in the first lockdown due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Any proposal to extend the treatment benefit scheme would have to be considered in a budgetary context, taking account of the current economic circumstances and with a view to the sustainability of the Social Insurance Fund.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.