Thursday, 29 April 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
67. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will give details of the proposed new prescription scheme from 1 July 1999 which is an amalgamation of the drugs refund scheme and the drugs costs subsidisation scheme; if it will be available to all; if a registration process in advance is necessary; if this is widely known; the way in which registration will be carried out; and the way in which people who have not undergone a prior registration process will be treated after July 1999. [11262/99]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): With effect from 1 July 1999, the existing drug cost subsidisation and drug refund schemes will be merged into one new drug payment scheme. The primary aim of this scheme is to bring about important improvements in the existing schemes by effectively merging the best elements of the two existing schemes and is designed to significantly improve the cash flow situation for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.
The new family scheme will have significant advantages over the existing drug refund scheme. Under the drug refund scheme, families and indi viduals pay the full cost of their prescription medicines and may, at the end of the quarter, claim reimbursement from their health board of expenditure over £90 in that calendar quarter. Many families and individuals have very heavy expenditure on drugs and medicines in a quarter and have to wait a further six weeks from the end of that quarter before they receive a refund. This can cause considerable cash flow problems for a significant number of families and individuals. This will not happen under the new drug payment scheme. From the introduction of the new scheme, no individual or family will have to pay more than £42 per month for prescribed medicines. It means that families and individuals will, for the first time, be able to budget for the cost of medicines. Families and individuals will know that, whatever the size of their drugs bill, they will not have to pay more than £42 per month. In addition, there are families where, although one member may qualify for a drug cost subsidisation scheme card, combined expenditure on medicines by other members, which can be considerable, cannot be recouped until the end on the quarter. With the new drug payment scheme, no family will have to pay more than £42 in any month for prescribed medicines. The new scheme will be of significant benefit to such families.
The fact that the drug payment scheme will operate on a monthly basis has distinct advantages over the current drug refund scheme. Under the drug refund scheme, a family or an individual could, for example in one month have expenditure of say £80 but no expenditure in the other two months. They would not have been entitled to a refund. Under the new scheme, they will only have to pay £42 in that month.
There are no qualifying criteria for inclusion on the new drug payment scheme and as such, this scheme is open to everyone. Where expenditure by a family or an individual exceeds £42 per month on prescribed medicines, the balance will be met by the State. This is in contrast to the old DCSS scheme, where patients had to be certified by their doctor as suffering from a condition requiring ongoing expenditure on medicines in excess of £32 per month.
Individuals or families availing of the new drug payment scheme should register with the relevant health board. Registration forms, containing information on the scheme, have been circulated to every household. In addition, registration forms have been issued to patients currently claiming under the existing schemes. Additional registration forms will also be available in community pharmacies and general practitioners' surgeries. Public notices have been placed in the national newspapers regarding the scheme and it is intended to place further public notices. Posters advertising the scheme will also be supplied for display in health centres, community pharmacies and general practitioner surgeries. It will of course be possible to register after 1 July 1999 and to avail of the benefits of the scheme.
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