Written Answers. - Departmental Schemes.

Michael Ring

Question:

514 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has to increase the assistance to coeliacs to help them purchase foods for a gluten-free diet. [19341/00]

Under the general medical services scheme certain gluten-free foods are available to medical card holders who are coeliacs. These food items include breads, bread mixes, flours and pizza bases.

The drug payment scheme is a community drugs scheme for non medical card holders to assist them with the cost of approved prescribed medicines and other items. Under the drug payment scheme, an individual or family unit pays the first £42 per month towards the cost of all their approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is designed to significantly improve the cash flow situation for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

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 in line with those items available to medical card holders. 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.

The Deputy will wish to know that in 1998, the total cost of claims reimbursed in respect of coeliac foods under the drug cost subsidisation scheme was £192,563, of which £102,588 was in respect of foods which are on the common list of reimbursable items. Of the £89,975 reimbursed for coeliac foods which are now no longer reimbursable, over £42,500 was in respect of cakes and biscuits.