1.25 million people claimed benefits through PRSI last year

More than 1.25 million claims were made for dental, optical and hearing benefits in 2018.

Figures released by the Department of Social Protection show that more than €90 million was spent on dental check-ups, eyesight tests and hearing aids last year as part of the Treatment Benefits Scheme.

It is a significant increase from the €32.86 million spent on the scheme in 2017 and can be attributed to the extension of the scheme to dependent spouses and partners and the self-employed last March.

The scheme includes benefits for PRSI paying employees and the self-employed.

The optical scheme covers the provision of glasses or a contribution towards contact lenses, while the dental scheme includes contributions towards cleaning, either an annual scale and polish or more extensive treatment if needed.

There is also the option of a free annual dental examination, while some applicants can also get contributory payments towards the cost of hearing aids.

A total of 1,270,313 successful applications were made last year. The majority (804,735) of these related to dental services. A further 451,249 were made for optical supports, with 14,689 applications relating to hearing aids.

In total, the Department paid out €93.38 million on the scheme last year, just over half of which - some €46.91 million - related to dental claims.

1.08 million claims were made by PRSI-paying employees, with 190,000 claims were made by self-employed people.

Currently, there are 2.5 million PRSI contributors in the State who may have an entitlement to claim under the Treatment Benefit scheme.

Announcing the increased uptake, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty encouraged all potential beneficiaries to take advantage of the scheme in 2019.

“The extension of the Treatment Benefits and the expansion of the scheme together with the online application facility ‘WelfarePartners’ have made the scheme more accessible and I would hope that this trend continues in 2019," she said.

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