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Harney in hot water on prescription charge plan
[Posted: Mon 16/11/2009 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Medical card prescription charges, in addition to higher hospital and drug charges, are expected to be announced in next month's budget as the Government plans to impose savings of €1 billion in the health service next year.
Health Minister Mary Harney, speaking on RTE's The Week in Politics last night, said the Government was looking at prescription charges
“We are looking at everything in the health service. We are looking at prescription charges, for example, which we’ve never had in Ireland before,” she said.
“It is on the table. It could be something like 50 cent per item prescribed. We have to do two things - we have to raise money and we have to discourage over-prescribing and the overuse of medication,” the Minister said.
Ms Harney said one in six people who get a prescription under the medical card scheme are prescribed 10 or more items.
"Very few people need 10 or more items. The Chief Medical Officer would say to me that that is not good for patient safety."
The imposition of such a charge will be highly controversial, especially in the wake of expected reductions in social welfare payments.
The decision a year ago to take medical cards off most over 70s caused major public protests which led to the Government rowing back on its original plans.
Many of the over 70s targeted at that time would have been better off than many of those currently targeted for the prescription charge.
The 'Bord Snip' report earlier this year proposed that a €5 charge be implemented on medical card prescriptions, rather than an individual chrge on each item on a prescription.
The Bord Snip report also recomended that the €5 prescription charge be applied to drugs provided free under the Long-Term Illness Scheme. It said this would save €70 million a year.
It also proposed changes in eligibility arrangements for medical cards.
In the UK NHS, where access to healthcare is free to all, lower income groups have always been exempt from prescription charges, which are in any case now being abolished.
In addition to prescription charges, higher A&E attendance and daily bed costs and a major increase in the monthly drugs payment threshold are expected to be introduced.
Healthcare workers will also be hit by cuts in pay and allowances. Those at the higher end of the public service pay scale, including hospital consultants, may be hit by a pay cut of around 15%.
Consultants earlier this year received salary increases of around €30,000 each following the introduction of a new contract.
Labour health spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan said the indication that the Government was considering charging patients for every item they received on medical card prescriptions showed they were determined to ensure those who could least afford it would bear the greatest burden in resolving the crisis in the public finances.
|Anonymous Posted: 25/11/2009 15:56|
If this blatant money making scheme against the poorest in our society results in badly needed medication being skipped then the government will pay out even more when people need hospitalisation. Why would a GP perscribe something unless it was actulaly needed. Aafterall it is a fac that those who are poorer or older (typical medical card patients) are more likley to be ill
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