Monday 23 October 2017

Reilly scooped €174,000 from drugs savings scheme

Health Minister James Reilly
Health Minister James Reilly
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE Minister for Health claimed more than €174,000 to invest in his medical practice under a controversial drugs savings scheme that was later scrapped.

Dr James Reilly, a former GP and president of the Irish Medical Organisation, was among more than 1,800 doctors who shared a huge €130m pot to invest in their practices until the scheme was finally suspended in 2006.

The minister claimed the funds under the Indicative Drugs Target Savings Scheme (IDTSS), which encouraged doctors to prescribe cheaper drugs.

Under the scheme, GPs were given an annual target for savings on drugs costs. Those who came in under their targets were allowed to claim back half the amount saved to invest in their medical practices. The money was paid to doctors out of the State-run General Medical Scheme and allowed family doctors to effectively build up and invest in their practices free of charge.

New figures show that hundreds of GPs claimed six-figure sums from the State to invest in their private medical practices over the 13 years for which the scheme was operating.

The €174,175 that Dr Reilly received was at the lower end of the scale. One GP in Leitrim, Dr Sean Bourke, received just over €1m, suggesting that he saved €2m in drugs costs. Twelve other family doctors received between €500,000 and €1m. They included Dr Michael Doyle in Dublin, who received €727,820 under the IDTSS, and Dr Martin Oliver Whyte in Mayo, who received €814,860 under the scheme.

The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The scheme was finally suspended in 2006 by Dr Reilly's predecessor as health minister, Mary Harney, after 13 years in operation.

A consultants' report by Deloitte & Touche was concerned that the scheme left the General Medical Scheme exposed to potentially huge payouts. A second review concluded that there was little evidence of how effective the scheme was and concluded that it was no longer viable.

Dr Reilly has been talking about reintroducing the scheme in a modified form.

He told a primary care conference last November that the scheme could be re-examined in order to bring about drugs savings and cut the cost to the State of prescriptions.

The funds that GPs claimed for prescribing cheaper drugs were in addition to the fees which they charged the State for treating medical-card patients.

The latest figures show that family doctors were paid €500m for treating medical-card patients in 2011 and 26 of these were paid more than €500,000.

Irish Independent

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