The 50 cent prescription charge introduced for medical card holders last week has been roundly condemned by public representatives in Mayo.
Describing the move as “an attack on the least well off”, Sinn Féin Councillor, Thérèse Ruane stated:
“The Fianna Fáil/Green Government has turned a deaf ear to every appeal not to go ahead with the imposition of prescription charges for medical card holders. This is a tax on illness and an attack on the least well off.
“Health Minister Harney claims that these charges are being imposed in order to save money on the State’s drugs bill. In fact it typifies the perverse economics of the Fianna Fáil/Green government. They place a further burden on those least able to afford it rather than tackling the real problem. The real savings to be made are in reducing the profiteering of manufacturers and distributors of drugs and in tackling over-prescription and wastage.
“As well as being an unfair imposition on those who can least afford them, the charges are set to cause confusion as the HSE has not made clear how people will be refunded if they pay over the €10 monthly maximum in charges.
“An added complication is that the €10 per month maximum applies to families as well as individuals, which means that pharmacists have to identify family members so that the monthly charges to a family in excess of €10 can be refunded. The HSE is asking people to register on-line as a family group, print off a certificate and present this to the pharmacist."
Meanwhile, Cllr Harry Barrett has called for nursing home residents to be exempt from the charge.
"Nursing home residents should be exempted. The charge of 50 cent per prescribed item is one of the most mean-minded steps that this Government has taken in the current round of budgetary cutbacks. Many older people in this county, are prescribed a range of medicines that they often must use for the rest of their lives.
“This is likely to hit people in nursing homes particularly hard, because of the tiny level of disposable income they have. It must be remembered that people in this position already effectively had a pension cut of two per cent imposed on them, when the Christmas bonus was scrapped last year.
“Now this Government has decided they must pay up to €10 a month for medicine which represents a 4.5 per cent cut in the household income of those on a basic pension.
“This means they must pay for the medicine that helps them function and in some cases keeps them alive. Minister Lenihan must reverse this thoughtless decision immediately by exempting pensioners from the prescription charge.”