Grants of up to €1,000 towards the cost of medically required contact lenses are to be made available every two years for employees and the self-employed, under new measures announced today by Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.
Previously, this support was provided every four years to workers who required contact lenses for medical reasons.
These changes, under the Department’s Treatment Benefit Scheme, reduce that period by half.
Under the scheme, grants of up to €1,000 towards the cost of a pair of medical contact lenses will be provided every two years, or €500 for each contact lens.
The changes take effect immediately for people who qualify under the Department’s Treatment Benefit Scheme.
The initiative is the third such improvement to the scheme introduced by the Minister this year.
In May, Minister Humphreys announced a new €500 grant towards the cost of a hairpiece, wig or hair replacement. The measure is designed to support people who suffer from cancer or certain forms of alopecia.
The Minister also announced measures that will mean people aged 25-28 will now only need to work for 9 months to avail of dental, optical and aural treatments.
Announcing the changes in relation to medical contact lenses, Minister Humphreys commented:
“I am delighted to introduce these changes today which will mean people can avail of State support towards the cost of medical contact lenses every two years instead of four.
“Contact lenses can be a costly expense and this measure is designed to assist people who require specialised lenses for medical reasons.
“This is the third positive change that I have introduced under the Treatment Benefit scheme arising from Budget 2022.
“It follows on from my introduction of a new €500 grant towards the cost of a hairpiece, wig or hair replacement and the easing of PRSI conditions for 25-29 year olds.
“The Regulations that I have signed today ensure that these people, whether employees or the self-employed, are given the same treatment as those who might use the Treatment Benefit Scheme to receive support towards the cost of a pair of glasses.
“I will continue to examine what further changes we can make to this important scheme so that more of our citizens can benefit.”
Funded out of the Social Insurance Fund, the Treatment Benefit scheme is available to employees, self-employed and retired people with the required social insurance (PRSI) contributions and to their adult dependants (almost 2.25 million people in all).
The Treatment Benefit scheme provides for full or partial funding for specified dental, optical, aural treatments, medical appliances (hearing aids and medical contact lenses) and a grant towards the cost of a hairpiece, wig or hair replacement. It is the Department’s largest individual scheme in terms of claims with over 1.4 million made in 2021.
Expenditure on the scheme was over €109 million in 2021, with an estimated additional €7 million being re-imbursed to the HSE in respect of people who were dual qualified for treatment (under both Treatment Benefit and the HSE medical card scheme).
For those who are prescribed to wear contact lenses for medical reasons the frequency of the need to change the lenses varies with their particular eye condition.
Some people must wear these lenses because they have a distortion in the shape of the pupil and the lens stops the distortion. In this case, the lens is a hard glass lens.
Sometimes medical lenses are needed because glasses can’t correct the bad eyesight issue sufficiently.
Note for Editors
To qualify for Treatment Benefit, a person must have paid Class A, E, P, H or S social insurance (PRSI) contributions. The number of social insurance contributions needed depends on age and are set out in detail below. Additional requirements apply in relation to the number of contributions required in the Governing Contribution Year.
- Under 21: 39 contributions
- 21–28: 39 contributions
- 29–65: 260 contributions
- Different rules apply for people aged over 60 and over 65
- Adult dependants may also qualify