2.5 million covered by PRSI entitled to free pair of glasses

If they want to upgrade to a more expensive pair, they will get a subsidy of €42.37 or €84.19, depending on whether they are single, bifocal or varifocal lenses.

The move marks the partial restoration of benefits under the PRSI scheme that were cut from 2010. It meant that PRSI holders were only entitled to a free eye exam.

The restoration will coincide with the partial return of subsidised dental care under the PRSI scheme.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection confirmed to the Irish Independent that the optical scheme will see the reintroduction of certain benefits from the end of October.

"In addition to the free eye exam currently available for qualified PRSI contributors and their dependent spouses or partners, these will include glasses and any necessary repairs to glasses. Self-employed people may also avail of this scheme," she said.

As was the case prior to 2010, the customer will be able to get free glasses - either one pair of both reading and distance glasses or one pair of bifocal or varifocal lenses.

"They can opt for an upgraded design and pay the difference in cost themselves. Alternatively, they can opt for contact lenses and use the department payment towards that cost.

"The free eye examination and the supply of glasses or contacts lenses is permitted once every two years," she said.

Lynda McGivney-Nolan, of the Association of Optometrists Ireland, welcomed the move and said the State fee to opticians has also been increased, in recognition that the eye test is now more comprehensive with more advanced technology involved.

Fintan Hourihan, head of the Irish Dental Association, also confirmed the return of the scale and polish treatment is being reintroduced for PRSI holders. This was abolished as part of government cuts in 2009. The patient will not have to pay more than €15 for the treatment.

Treatment for periodontal pockets, a form of gum disease that can lead to deep spaces around the teeth, is also to be subsidised with a State fee of €42 for the dentist.

The restoration of some of the benefits will be met with relief by employees who have seen little tangible value for their PRSI payments during the austerity years.

The go-ahead was given by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in last year's Budget when he was social protection minister. Negotiations took place since with dentists and opticians.

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