Free Dental-Care Program to Be Expanded to Include Elderly

YERUSHALAYIM -
Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Free basic dental care for children has been a rousing success, Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said at a conference of health insurance industry executives — so successful that he plans to expand the program to include the elderly. Rabbi Litzman will propose the change after the upcoming chagim to the Adif program, which currently provides free basic dental care to children up to 15 years of age (that age limit will increase to 18 next year). Beginning next year, the program will also be offered to Israelis age 70 and older, to provide basic dental care such as filling cavities and cleaning teeth, and to address certain other dental issues.

Offering the plan to elderly Israelis was the latest in a long list of benefits that the Health Ministry has instituted in the past several years, Rabbi Litzman said at the conference. Among the improvements that have positively affected the health of Israelis: a campaign to convince food manufacturers to produce healthier food; a program that has ensured that all Israeli hospitals have at least one MRI machine; and improvements in the hygiene of hospitals, reducing cases of sepsis among patients.

The next step will be to ensure that there are enough doctors to go around — and to do that, Rabbi Litzman is instituting a plan to persuade newly graduated doctors to remain at jobs in Israel, instead of seeking jobs abroad. Specialists, in particular, are a target of the program, which, Rabbi Litzman said, will see the Ministry paying “a lot of money” to those in the program. Specialists will be asked to commit to a specific job for a number of years as part of the deal. Preventing emigration of doctors, the minister said, was key to increasing health options available to Israelis.