GMS prescription charges may be introduced

Mon, Nov 16, 2009, 00:00

PRESCRIPTION CHARGES for medical card holders are being considered as part of the budget package, Minister for Health Mary Harney has revealed.

“We are looking at everything in the health service. We are looking at prescription charges, for example, which we’ve never had in Ireland before,” she told RTÉ TV’s The Week in Politicslast night.

“We know that one in six people who get a prescription under the GMS are prescribed 10 or more items. Very few people need 10 or more items. The chief medical officer would say to me that that is not good for patient safety.

“It is on the table. It could be something like 50 cent per item prescribed. We have to do two things: we have to raise money and we have to discourage over-prescribing and the overuse of medication.”

She added that if the country did not have the capacity to deal with its own economic situation, others would do it for us.

“Our lenders will stop lending us money unless we deal with the financial challenges that meet the country; we all know that . . . We are not going to allow that to happen. We have the capacity in Ireland to take the tough decisions that are necessary.”

Labour health spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan said the indication that the Government was considering charging patents for every item they received under the GMS scheme showed they were determined to ensure those who could least afford it would bear the greatest burden in resolving the crisis in the public finances.

“Labour accepts that there is a massive problem that needs to be addressed and that a budgetary gap of €4 billion will have to be closed this year, but we do not accept that those who are least well off, such as people who are on the GMS scheme, should be forced to shoulder the burden.

“A charge such as the one suggested by the Minister today will simply mean that those on the lowest incomes will be singled out and forced to pay what amounts to yet another stealth tax.”