Thursday, 25 May 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
85. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will include Hypophosphalaemia Rickets, which is a chemical deficiency, on the list of long-term illnesses in view of the fact that persons suffering from this rare illness do not qualify for a drugs card, or long-term illness card, even though they are dependent on expensive drugs. [14788/00]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The long-term illness scheme entitles persons to free drugs and medicines which are prescribed in respect of a specific schedule of illnesses. The long-term illness scheme has not been extended since 1975 and there are no plans to extend the scheme, having regard to the other schemes available to help people with the cost of drugs and medicines.
All persons who do not have a medical card or long-term illness card can qualify for the drug payment scheme, which was introduced on 1 July 1999 with a threshold of £42 per individual or family unit. Under the scheme, once an individual or family has spent a total of £42 on approved prescribed medicines in a month, the cost of any further approved prescribed medicines in that month is paid for by the State. The primary aim of the scheme is to bring about improvements  over previous schemes and it is designed to be user friendly and to significantly improve the cash flow for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.
In addition, people who are unable without undue hardship to arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board to decide. In determining eligibility for a medical card, the local health board has regard to the financial circumstances of the applicant. Income guidelines are used by health boards to assist in determining a person's eligibility. However, even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, the person may still be awarded a medical card if the chief executive officer considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis.
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