Belfast Telegraph

Changes implemented to enable more people to access affordable healthcare

More than 200 million euro will be spent on Slaintecare this year arising from announcements in the Budget.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, left, and Minister for Health Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, left, and Minister for Health Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

The Government has implemented a number of changes to enable more people to access affordable healthcare.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris announced the changes as part of Budget 2019, which will begin on April 1.

There will be a 10-euro reduction in the monthly Drugs Payment Scheme threshold from 134 to 124 euro, a 10% increase across all GP visit card weekly income thresholds, and a reduction in prescription charges from two euro to 1.50 for all medical card holders over the age of 70.

More working people on modest incomes will qualify for free GP care, while changes to the Drugs Payment Scheme and the prescription charge will help make medicines more affordable Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar said: “A big part of Slaintecare is extending free healthcare to more people and reducing the cost for others.

“So this is another step forward benefiting people across society – young, old, families, single people, low income and better off.

“More working people on modest incomes will qualify for free GP care, while changes to the Drugs Payment Scheme and the prescription charge will help make medicines more affordable.

“Hundreds of thousands of people could benefit from these three actions taken together.

“This week will also see increases in weekly welfare payments to carers, people with disabilities, widows, lone parents and job seekers and special increases for low-income families with children.”

Mr Harris said the plans were the first tangible outcomes of the Slaintecare report.

“Slaintecare says very clearly, make GP care available to people on the basis of income, reduce the costs of going to pharmacy if you have levied prescription charges and increase the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme,” he said.

For 200,000 of our older citizens, they will benefit from a reduction in the prescription charge Simon Harris

“The message is if you are going to the pharmacy next month, your monthly bill is going to be cheaper because if you are over 70 and are in receipt of a medical card, the amount you pay in prescription charges will actually reduce by 50c per item and if you are on the Drug Payment Scheme, which many families are, you are going to see I think 44,000 families benefit from a 10 euro a month saving.

“For 200,000 of our older citizens, they will benefit from a reduction in the prescription charge.”

More than 200 million euro will be spent on Slaintecare this year arising from announcements in the Budget, according to the Government.

“We have a lot to do. It is a 10-year plan. What we have seen in recent weeks is that plan come alive,” Mr Harris added.

There have been mounting fears among patients about the effect Brexit will have on access to medicines, however the minister said plans are in place to avoid any such issues.

“We’ve been working extremely hard with stakeholders in industry and my own department on Brexit preparedness for about two years now,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of work done. We have no notification of any medicine shortage directly linked to Brexit, which is a sign of the good work that has been done.

“The advice to patients, doctors and everyone else is the same: not to stockpile, because actually in stockpiling you could inadvertently disrupt the supply chain.”

PA

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