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Drug payment scheme threshold increase will hit families, says IPU

The government has announced a €13.644 budget for health in 2012 – and says the state must save €543 million on healthcare spending.

Image: John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images

THE MINISTER for Public Expenditure and Reform has announced a €13.644 billion allocation for health in Budget 2012.

Brendan Howlin said an additional €50 million is going towards government commitments on mental health (including the development of community mental health teams) and access to GP care (such as access to primary care without fees to claimants of free drugs through the Long-Term Illness Scheme).

Howlin also announced a raft of reforms aimed at saving €543 million in public spending on health.

“We must reduce our cost base and increase efficiency to enable health service provision that delivers its essential services effectively, professionally and compassionately,” he added, before outlining the main areas the €543 million in net savings could be made.

One of the measures he outlined is to increase the threshold for the drug payment scheme from €120 to €132 a month – a move the Irish Pharmacy Union’s president Darragh O’Loughlin says will hurt families.

“It seems as though they’re being told they’ve escaped some cuts in child benefit payments, but they’re being told the money is being taken off them here,” he told TheJournal.ie.

O’Loughlin said families who have high medical bills and avail of the drug payment scheme are going to find it tough to source the extra money each month. He said that these families typically consult a doctor several times a year too, and the higher qualification level for the drug scheme “is another blow to families”.

Howlin also announced measures to reduce the price of drugs and fees for services would save the state €112 million a year, but O’Loughlin said it is too soon to know how this would pan out until further details are released by the government through the Bugdet 2012 announcements.

O’Loughlin said the IPU is pleased the minister did not announce the €50 medical card application charge which had been rumoured ahead of Budget 2012, saying it would have seriously affected access to healthcare for people who already have serious difficulty in paying for healthcare.

LIVE: Brendan Howlin’s Budget 2012 speech to the Dáil >

In full: Brendan Howlin’s Budget 2012 announcement >

Read: Budget 2012: Top tips for beating Budget stress

More: ‘Less than €2 a week’: Government publishes household charge bill

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