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“Prescription charges are a tax on illness” – Ó Caoláin

1 October, 2010 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described the decision of the Fianna Fáil/Green Government to proceed with the imposition of prescription charges for medical card holders from today, 1 October, as “an attack on the least well off”. He said they typify the “perverse economics” of the Government.

He said:

“The Fianna Fáil/Green Government has turned a deaf ear to every appeal not to go ahead with the imposition of prescription charges for medical card holders. This is a tax on illness and an attack on the least well off.

“Health Minister Harney claims that these charges are being imposed in order to save money on the State’s drugs bill. In fact it typifies the perverse economics of the Fianna Fáil/Green government. They place a further burden on those least able to afford it rather than tackling the real problem. The real savings to be made are in reducing the profiteering of manufacturers and distributors of drugs and in tackling over-prescription and wastage.

“As well as being an unfair imposition on those who can least afford them, the charges are set to cause confusion as the HSE has not made clear how people will be refunded if they pay over the €10 monthly maximum in charges.

“A HSE/Dept. of Health & Children leaflet for distribution to medical card holders says that people charged over €10 per month have to apply to the HSE for a refund.

“However, a HSE circular and Q&A to pharmacists (Circular No. 020/10) says that the HSE ‘will issue refunds automatically on a quarterly basis’.

“An added complication is that the €10 per month maximum applies to families as well as individuals, which means that pharmacists have to identify family members so that the monthly charges to a family in excess of €10 can be refunded. The HSE is asking people to register on-line as a family group, print off a certificate and present this to the pharmacist.

“Minister Harney has created another costly bureaucratic nightmare for patients, pharmacists and the HSE, all as a so-called cost-saving measure. And she retains the power to increase the charges at any time.” ENDS

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