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Minister Stephen Donnelly pushes to end hospital fees in Budget 2023


Stephen Donnelly has also been pushing to change the income rules for medical cards

Stephen Donnelly has also been pushing to change the income rules for medical cards

Stephen Donnelly has also been pushing to change the income rules for medical cards

Hospital charges for adults could be abolished and prescription fees reduced under Budget proposals from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

The minister is seeking a major Budget package next week and is aiming to reduce the cost of health for citizens.

Yesterday, Mr Donnelly announced he was ending hospital charges for children which cost €80 a day, and is capped at €800 a year.

It is understood he has been insisting on dropping the fee for anyone attending a hospital in his negotiations with Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath.

The minister has also been pushing to change the income rules for medical cards to allow more people claim the benefit.

Writing in the Irish Independent earlier this year, Mr Donnelly revealed he planned to abolish hospital fees to make the healthcare system more affordable.

“For far too long access to care and health outcomes have been adversely impacted by ability to pay. I believe that health services should be affordable, or free at the point of delivery,” the minister said.

Mr Donnelly is not believed to have any significant health measures in the Government’s cost-of-living package. However, he has been pushing to introduce cuts in healthcare costs in next year’s Budget.  

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While prescription charges are going down, it is not expected that there will be any significant changes to the drugs payment scheme, which allows people claim back the cost of medication from the Government.

The Department of Health is expected to receive a substantial overall budget package.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has said reducing standing charges on electricity bills is under consideration as part of budgetary negotiations.

The Irish Independent revealed earlier this week that households pay at least €300 on their electricity bills before they even flick on a switch, with some suppliers charging €700 a year in standing charges.

Micheál Martin ruled out food vouchers or stamps in the Budget to help people, saying next week’s measures will focus on “financial supports”.

The Government has promised to put in place a windfall tax on the massive profits of energy companies, and this money will be given back to the public in the Budget through a number of measures, including a €200 electricity credit.

“The State will procure some of that windfall gain and allocate it back to consumers and households,” Mr Martin said.

“In relation to standing charges, we will be examining that also. There is no room for energy companies to exploit this situation in any shape or form, and I would be concerned by any increase in standing charges in terms of how they would impact the public.”

Mr Martin said there needs to be “clear transparency around all of this and proper explanations and accountability” by energy firms to the Government.

He also promised nobody will have their lights turned off this winter if they are unable to pay their bills.

“Especially those with medical requirements should have no fears about being disconnected at any time during the crisis,” he said.

Mr Martin said the €200 energy credit, tax cuts and a “cost reduction programme” will form part of next week’s Budget and multi-billion-euro cost-of-living package.

“We’d be looking at further areas there where we can reduce costs across the board, really, in how we give people some extra resources to deal with the crisis, which has manifested itself in terms of energy costs and so on – that’s the approach we are taking,” he added.

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