Written Answers. - Drug Payment Scheme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

211 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason items such as gluten free pasta, cereals, bread, crackers and biscuits which were available under the drugs cost subsidisation scheme to coeliac patients are not available under the new scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that coeliac patients incur not only the extra £10 per month charge for the scheme but further outlay if they wish to maintain a varied gluten free diet; if he will restore the availability of these foods under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5156/00]

The new drug payment scheme, with a threshold of £42 per month per individual or family, was introduced on 1 July 1999 and replaced the drug cost subsidisation scheme – DCSS – and drug refund scheme – DRS. The primary aim of the new drug payment scheme is to bring about important improvements over the previous schemes and the scheme is designed to be more streamlined, user friendly and to significantly improve the cash flow situation for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. With regard to the increase, I would point out that there has been no increase in the thresholds for the DCSS or DRS since 1991.

A common list of reimbursable items was introduced for the general medical services scheme and the drug payment scheme to ensure equity in relation to the products reimbursed by the State under both schemes. The list of reimbursable food items to which persons registered under the drug payment scheme are entitled is therefore in line with those items available to medical card holders and includes breads, bread mixes, flours and pizza bases. It is considered that the range of such items available under State reimbursement schemes provides a reasonable choice and persons requiring items which are not reimbursable would be expected to meet the full cost of such items. There are no plans to include other coeliac foods in the common list.

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.