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Covid blamed for delay in prescription charges cut

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly made the announcement today Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly made the announcement today Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly made the announcement today Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has failed to sign off on a cut in prescription charges for medical cardholders that was supposed to come into effect three weeks ago.

The last government announced in the most recent budget that prescription charges would be reduced by 50c for all medical cardholders from July 1.

This would lead to charges being reduced to €1 per item for the over-70s and to €1.50 for people below that age.

The maximum monthly charge for medicines would also be reduced to €10 for over-70s and €15 for all other medical cardholders.

Former health minister Simon Harris had intended to sign regulations giving effect to the change before he left the department on June 27.

However, his successor Mr Donnelly has so far not signed these regulations, with his department saying he is "currently consulting with government colleagues on these proposals".

"Due to Covid, not only did these savings not materialise, but the budget will overrun by several billion euro," he told the Sunday Independent.

"I've already received sanction from the Dail for an additional €2bn, and will be seeking an additional sum later this year.

"As such, it's not a question of signing off, or not signing off. Additional monies would be required, which is a matter for Government and the Dail."

Answering parliamentary questions from Mr Donnelly last October - when he was Fianna Fail health spokesman - Mr Harris said the bill to reduce the charge to €1.50 with a monthly cap of €15 for under-70s would be €7m this year and €12m in a full year. Labour leader Alan Kelly said last night: "If he's not going to go ahead with the reduction he should clearly state why, and if this was agreed with his Coalition partners. And if that's the case I would question his commitment to Sláintecare."

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