Qualification for treatment benefit (TB), which includes dental, optical and medical appliances (hearing aids), is based on the person having paid the required number of PRSI contributions since starting employment and also having the required number of contributions or credits in the relevant tax year. The number of contributions required to qualify varies with age.
Eligibility was extended to the self-employed in March 2017. Dependent spouse/partners of qualified persons can also qualify for the benefit.
It is estimated that 2.5m people currently pay or have paid the relevant PRSI classes (A,E,H,P and S), that can qualify them and their dependent spouse for TB.
The number of optical benefit applications processed from 1st April 2017 to 31st Dec 2018 was 635,745. Statistics of the uptake by the self-employed are only available from January 2018, in the 11 months to November 2018, of the 404,252 optical benefit applications processed, 70,438 (17%) were from self-employed contributors.