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Health changes: Drug payment scheme reduced and medical card threshold for over-70s increased

The total budget for the sector has been increased to €17.4 billion.

Medical professional.
Medical professional.
Image: Shutterstock/Andrei_R

THE HEALTH SECTOR in Ireland will receive an additional €1 billion in funding from the government next year, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe announced today. 

There will be a 6.3% increase in health expenditure bringing the total up to €17.4 billion for next year.

This is a €1 billion increase on 2019 expenditure which the minister says will be used to respond to “significant demographic changes” placing greater demands on the health service.

Prescription charges will be reduced by 50 cent for every person. The monthly threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme will be reduced by €10 per month which brings the new price to €114. 

Medical card income thresholds for the over-70s will increase by €50 for a single person or €150 for a couple per week.

The government also plans to bring in free GP care for under-8s and free dental care for under-6s from next September.

One million additional home care hours will also be provided in 2020, a move welcomed by Fianna Fáil spokesperson for older people Mary Butler. 

“It would have been reckless not to see action on this matter. I would have liked to have seen a bigger increase, but I am mindful of the overarching Brexit situation facing our country,” said Butler in a statement today. 

There will be an increase of €25 million put into tackling hospital waiting lists. 

A fund of €20 million will be ring-fenced to integrate Sláintecare and €12 million for a Care Redesign Fund. New investment is planned for enhancing community healthcare services with up to 1000 therapists, nurses and other healthcare professionals set to be recruited.  

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he asked the HSE to review and extend arrangement for giving medical cards to people with a terminal illness under Budget 2020.

Harris also said funding will be provided to recruiting dementia advisers and more funding will be allocated to respite care, school leavers with disabilities and speech and language therapists. 

Not agreed

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has hit back at these budget measures saying they do not provide meaningful solutions to the failings of the health service.

President of the IMO Padraig McGarry has also claimed that the proposal to extend free GP care to under-8s has not yet been agreed with his organisation. 

“As part of the recent IMO GP Deal, the IMO agreed to enter separate negotiations on this issue but talks have not even begun on how this can be resourced and implemented and we have indicated strongly that this move is not our preferred policy direction given other priorities for investment,” McGarry said in a statement today. 

“The Government had an opportunity with Budget 2020 to offer meaningful solutions to our many issues, but it has utterly failed to do so.”

The group said that issues such as the 30% pay disparity between certain consultants, the lack of resources and staff in medical specialties and the need for more financial supports for medical graduates should have been addressed in today’s Budget.  

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