Tuesday 12 November 2019

HSE cuts to force prescription costs up €2.70

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

PRIVATE patients face paying an average €2.70 extra per prescription, if many pharmacists refuse to absorb new HSE cuts.

Meanwhile, GPs – who are also to have more than €30m cut from their fees for treating medical card holders – have warned that more surgeries may have to impose waiting lists with patient facing delays of several days to be seen.

Up until now pharmacists got a 20pc retail mark-up from the HSE on all medicines dispensed to private patients under the Drugs Payment Scheme, which kicked in once a patient had reached their monthly €144 limit for purchasing prescription items.

After that limit was reached, the patient would not be charged any more for their monthly medicines.

However, the HSE would reimburse the pharmacy for the relevant drugs and provide a 20pc mark-up on top of that.

The new system will scrap the 20pc mark-up, leaving the pharmacists with a reduction in income.

But they are expected to increase prices elsewhere to recoup their loss.

Many pharmacists were expected to recoup the loss by adding on the 20pc mark-up to several medicines for private customers – amounting to an average of €2.70 extra per prescription.

The average cost for medicines is now around €19 although there can be wide variation, particularly with branded medicines.

A similar mark- up for drugs dispensed under the long-term illness scheme is also being scrapped in a bid to save €32m.

However, the pharmacists cannot pass on the 20pc to patients on the long-term illness scheme as this is a state scheme with no money changing hands.

Darragh O'Loughlin, chief executive of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said the organisation had no role in pricing and it was a matter for each pharmacist to decide on the mark-ups for drugs.

He added: "Every time the State takes money from pharmacies it reduces the capacity of pharmacists to cut prices to private patients."

Meanwhile, GPs warned of a knock-on effect for patients from cuts in their fees.

The cuts will see the fee paid to GPs for administering the flu vaccine to medical card holders and at-risk groups reduced from €28.50 to €15.

The vaccine is free from the HSE.

Dr Ray Walley, of the Irish Medical Organisation, said: "I believe we will see the normalisation of long waiting times to see your local GP like they have in the UK."

Junior Health Minister Alex White described the cuts to the professional fees as "regrettable" but "inevitable".

Irish Independent

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