Older people who pay high medicine costs among the winners
PRIVATE patients and older people with medical cards who have large drugs bills are among the winners in out-of-pocket savings announced in the Budget.
The threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme will reduce by €10 a month to €124, cutting €120 a year from their medicine bills.
Medical-card holders aged over 70 will see their prescription per item charge reduced to €1.50, costing a maximum of €15 a month.
However, all other charges including A&E fees and hospital in-patient levies remain unchanged and will continue to generate income for the health service.
Health Minister Simon Harris announced record funding of €17bn for the health budget next year, a rise of €1.05bn.
Among the main features is a change in the income threshold for a GP visit card, which is improved by 10pc. The prediction is this will benefit around 100,000 patients.
However, many of those who qualify are likely to find it difficult to get a GP because of closed lists.
The minister said €200m was going towards the implementation of the Sláintecare strategy, the 10-year blueprint for reform of the health service.
However, when broken down, just €20m of this is targeted specifically at transition measures such as integrating hospital and community services on a regional basis.
The rest of the money includes the funding for the new GP cards.
It also includes €75m for the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), which will buy treatments for waiting list patients.
The NTPF is getting an additional €20m to treat 70,000 patients from waiting lists, which are now at record levels.
It also includes unspecified funding to start restoring cuts in fees for GPs providing treatment for medical card holders and other HSE services which were cut in the recession.
Talks with GPs are to start today. Other funding under the Sláintecare banner includes some of the mental health allocation and measures to give more eye care to ophthalmologists in the community.
Asked about funding to prevent another record winter of overcrowding, the minister said €10m would be targeted at more community supports. The first phase of the extra hospital beds are in the first quarter of next year.
Some 78 beds are due in hospitals, such as Our Lady's Hospital in Drogheda.
The health service must find more than €100m to pay consultants for the first phase of back-pay they are due and €14m for new entrant pay.
Junior Minister Jim Daly said an additional €55m would be added to the mental health budget.
Most will go towards community mental health for adults and children.
He is set to pilot tele-counselling of patients over the internet and introduce a dedicated phoneline to signpost people to services.
Disability Minister Finian McGrath said disability services would get €150m, helping to fund 100 more specialist posts for needs assessments.
More respite and residential places would also be funded along with an expansion of community disability services to meet the needs of school-leavers
Minister of State Catherine Byrne said she would be prioritising funding for drug and alcohol projects.
There would be funding for drug and alcohol midwives to work with vulnerable mothers-to-be, she added.