Sunday 26 May 2019

Patients to save €60-€120 a year in medicine bills


Picture posed: Thinkstock
Picture posed: Thinkstock

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

PRIVATE patients with high monthly medicine bills will save €120 a year once the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme is reduced from €144 to €134.

All medical card holders will see the prescription charge fall from €2.50 per item to €2.

It means the maximum they will have to pay per month is €20, leaving them with €60 extra a year in their pockets.

There are around 500,000 medical card holders, covering around 1.3 million people, who will benefit from the cut that was first introduced for the over-70s last year.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he expects the reductions to come into force from January.

He said that the extension of free GP care to children aged six to 12 years of age remains a priority, but gave no commitment to bringing it in next year.

Around €25m is being allocated to a primary care fund, including GPs. It is unclear what extra services GPs will provide and this will depend on what kind of agreement is reached with them on a new contract.

If the doctors agree, it will likely see them provide more care in the community to people with long-term diseases to reduce the burden on hospitals.

It will also see more community intervention teams as well as the hiring of additional occupational therapists and advanced nurse practitioners working outside of hospitals.

Questioned on the size of the €25m allocation, which is modest given the pledge to provide more services for patients outside of hospitals, he said there was precedent to go back to government during the year for additional funding for GPs. There is also a pledge to provide a multi-annual budget to expand GP care.

An extra €37m is to be allocated to home care, including providing more home help hours and transitional care. Around 5,000 people are currently on waiting lists for home care.

There was disappointment that the Government has decided not to make specific funding available for community supports for people with dementia in Budget 2018.

The Fair Deal nursing home scheme is to get an extra €10m to keep waiting times for beds to around four weeks.

Jim Daly, Mental Health and Older People Minister, said another €35m has been allocated to develop mental health services, with €40m promised in 2019. However, Mental Health Reform director Dr Shari McDaid said while the Government announced €35m for 2018, in reality, with an overall cap on spending of €885m, this amounts to only €11.3m extra.

The HSE was due to start 2018 with a mental health budget of €873.7m, including the full allocation of €35m development funding from this year, she added.

Supporting Disability Services Minister for Disability Finian McGrath said disability services are getting an extra €75m. This aims to improve quality of care for people with a disability and move more people from congregated settings to community residences. He also promised more respite care.

Minister for Drugs and Health Promotion Catherine Byrne said a drug treatment service will be established in Kildare and waiting times would also be tackled.

Health at a glance

  • €15.3bn allocation to health – the highest to date.
  • €685m extra including €39m capital funding for new hospitals.
  • Medical card prescription charge cut from €2.50 to €2.
  • Drug Payment Scheme threshold down from €144 to €134 a month.
  • €75m to reduce waiting lists and €40m to tackle winter trolley crisis.
  • €37m for home care packages and transitional care beds.
  • €25m for primary care, including extra GP services.
  • €35m to develop mental health services.
  • €1.763m for disability services, a rise of €75m.
  • €949.7m for Fair Deal nursing scheme to keep waiting times low

Irish Independent

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