Dublin Bay North Councillor Deirdre Heney has accused the Government of betraying medical card holders with a five-fold increase in prescription charges – despite a promise four years ago to abolish them.
It comes as new figures released to Fianna Fáil show that the Government has collected €312m in prescription charges in the four years since it promised to axe the charge. Last year, medical card holders handed over a massive €120m in prescription charges and the figure has reached €48m in the first half of this year.
“These new figures highlight the complete hypocrisy of the Government on prescription charges. Shortly after they were elected, Fine Gael and Labour promised to abolish the prescription charge of 50c. Instead, they have introduced a series of increases and prescription charges have now gone up 200% to €2.50 per item,” explained Councillor Heney.
“Several pensioners and people with serious illnesses who require constant medication have raised this issue with me, saying they simply cannot afford the additional expense at a time when other State supports have been cut. There is a danger that some vulnerable people may forgo medication as a result of the increase. I know of cases where some people are forgoing medication as a result or they are forgoing other essentials in order to pay for their prescriptions. It is a disgrace.
“Many of these people took the former Minister for Health James Reilly at his word when he promised in 2011 that the charge would be scrapped. Instead he trebled the charge to €1.50 in 2013 and then added another euro a year later, bringing the charge to €2.50 per item. This is subject to a monthly cap of €25, which really adds up for someone who needs regular medication and is only living off the State pension or disability payments.
“This substantial charge is extremely short sighted, given that in many cases it is acting as a deterrent to sick people getting prescriptions filled. The result is more people potentially having to be hospitalised and costing the State more in the long-run.
“This charge needs to be phased out, beginning with the upcoming budget. It is yet another example of the Government’s sneaky attack on pensioners and people with disabilities. Why is it that the sick, disabled and elderly are consistently expected to bear the brunt of government cuts?”