Written Answers. - Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

622 Ms Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans, if any, he has to include asthma as part of the long-term illness scheme in view of recent comments by a consultant (details supplied) that he believes it is necessary to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2102/99]

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 change the scheme or to expand the number of illnesses covered by the scheme, having regard to the fact that the needs of individuals with significant or ongoing medical expenses are met by a range of other schemes which provide assistance towards the cost of prescribed drugs and medicines.

Where an individual or a family is subjected to a significant level of ongoing expenditure on medical expenses, such as general practitioner fees or prescribed drugs due to a long-term medical condition such as asthma, these expenses may be reckoned in determining eligibility for a medical card. In some cases a medical card may issue to a family member on a personal basis. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board to decide.

Persons who suffer from an ongoing medical condition can avail of the drug cost subsidisation scheme which caters for people who do not have a medical card or a long-term illness book and are certified as having a medical condition with a regular and ongoing requirement for prescribed drugs and medicines. Persons who qualify for inclusion in this scheme will not have to spend more than £32 in any month on prescribed medication.

Under the drugs refund scheme which covers expenditure by the whole family, any expenditure on prescribed medication above £90 in a calendar quarter is refunded by the health board. With effect from 1 April 1999, the existing drug cost subsidisation and drug refund schemes will be merged into one new drug payment scheme with a threshold of £42 per month per family unit or individual. No family or individual will have to pay more than £42 in any month on prescribed medicines. Any expenditure on prescribed medication in excess of £42 will be met by the State. To qualify under the present drug cost subsidis ation scheme, patients had to be certified by their doctor as suffering from a condition requiring ongoing expenditure. There are no qualifying criteria for this new drug payment scheme and, as such, this scheme is open to everyone.
I am satisfied that appropriate and comprehensive support is being provided by the State through the existing range of drug schemes to those with medical expenses arising from illnesses, such as asthma.