Press Release

Publication of Prescription Charges Legislation: Health (Amendment) No 2 Bill 2010

The Department of Health & Children today (25 June 2010) published the Health (Amendment) No. 2 Bill 2010. The Bill provides the legislative basis for charges to be made in respect of prescription items dispensed to medical card holders.

The charges are being introduced on foot of a Budget 2010 decision. This decision was made with a view to addressing the rising costs in the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme and influencing to some degree demand and prescribing patterns.

The prescription charge will not apply to the Long Term Illness Scheme or to Hepatitis C patients who receive services under the Health (Amendment) Act 1996.

The key elements of the Bill -which amends Section 59(1) of the Health Act 1970- are:

  • A charge of 50 cent will be imposed in respect of prescription items dispensed by a community pharmacy contractor on foot of a prescription issued under the GMS (Medical Card) Scheme.
  • Certain categories of person will be exempt from the charges. These are children who are in the care of the HSE under the Child Care Acts 1991 to 2007 and persons who are supplied with specific controlled drugs such as Methadone. The section also permits the Minister to make regulations to exempt other classes of persons from charges, subject to conditions.
  • The prescription charge will be collected and retained by the pharmacy contractors who dispense the prescription items. An amount corresponding to the amount retained will be deducted by the HSE from the reimbursement price.
  • The total prescription charge per family per month will not exceed €10. The HSE will put in place a refund system in order to refund families who exceed the €10 monthly ceiling.
  • The Bill permits the Minister to make regulations to vary either the amount of the charge per item or the aggregate monthly amount. Before doing so, the Minister will have regard to such of the following as considered appropriate: – information on the consumer price index; information on expenditure and the number of items prescribed to medical card holders; the medical needs and financial burden on persons who avail of services; the necessity to control health service expenditure.
  • It also permits the Minister to make regulations specifying classes of persons to be exempt from the charges. Before doing so, the Minister will have regard to such of the following as considered appropriate: – the particular medical condition, disability or medical needs of persons in that class; the number of the prescription items required in respect of those medical needs; information on expenditure and the number of items prescribed to medical card holders generally or in respect of the specific class; the necessity to control health service expenditure; whether the overall financial situation of this class is worse than that of other persons who are charged for prescription items.
  • Any regulations will be made with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

More information, including a copy of the bill itself.