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File photo Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Budget 2013

Pharmacists: Increased prescription charges may lead to people being hospitalised

The Irish Pharmacy Union has warned that hiking up the cost of prescriptions for people on low incomes could end up costing the government a lot more money than it will save.

PEOPLE MAY END up having to be hospitalised because they won’t be able to afford the medicine they need after today’s Budget, pharmacists have warned.

The Irish Pharmacy Union condemned the government’s decision to increase the prescription levy for medicines and said it could actually result in higher healthcare costs in the long-term.

Groups representing older people expressed similar concerns about the increase. Active Retirement Ireland said that the most vulnerable people in Irish society will be hit by the 200 per cent increase in the prescription charge.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin announced this afternoon that medical card holders will see prescription charges increased from 50 cent to €1.50 per item.  The monthly cap for a family is also being increased from €10 to €19.50. The Drug Payment Scheme threshold is being increased from €132 to €144 per month.

“We understand the difficult budgetary situation that the government is faced with, but increasing the levy could force sick people to go without medicine that they need,” said IPU President Rory O’Donnell.

“Such a move may also result in people having to be hospitalised when this could have been avoided – resulting in higher healthcare costs for the government”.

Age Action Ireland said that the increased charge, coupled with the €12 increase in the income threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme means many more older people will struggle to pay their medicine bills.

The group said 57 per cent of older people suffer from chronic illness and one third have a disability, meaning today’s health changes will have a major impact on many older people.

Budget 2013: Breakdown of changes to social welfare payments >

Budget 2013: Here’s what will affect the children >

Liveblog: Budget 2013 as it happened >

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