independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Patients face higher healthcare bills as budget is slashed

Parents making expensive 'voluntary contributions'

PUBLIC and private patients will be paying more this year to help the Government reach savings targets in the health service.

The €780m worth of cuts to the HSE's budget were brought to Cabinet yesterday by Health Minister James Reilly.

They include an extra €50m saved on prescription fees from medical card holders and an additional €10m from private patients who pay for their drugs.

The HSE's National Service Plan – detailing how the €14bn for current and capital spending will be allocated – was signed off by ministers.

The two biggest areas earmarked for savings are payroll and primary care, which covers areas such as medical cards, drugs and fees to GPs.

Payroll savings of around €308m need to be met by the end of the year, mainly through the loss of around 3,500 posts under the Croke Park deal.

The non-filling of posts which become vacant will also be supplemented by cuts in agency costs, including a saving of €10m through proposals to hire 1,000 graduate nurses on salaries of €22,000.

Tighter rules on medical card eligibility will see thousands lose the benefit or fail to qualify, saving €10m. The tighter eligibility for medical card holders is due to people no longer including outgoings such as home improvement loans, second home loans, car depreciation and a travel-to-work allowance.

Another 20,000 people over 70 years will see their full medical card reduced to a GP visit card in a bid to cut €12m.

GPs are to be told they need to reduce their drugs bills by around €20m through opting for more generic alternatives to branded medicines.

The additional €10m from private patients is due to an increase in the Drug Payment Scheme threshold from €132 to €144 per month.

The hope is that the agreement with drugs companies on drugs prices will kick in with €120m of savings this year.

The plan will be published this morning by the HSE.

Irish Independent

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