Written Answers. - Drugs Payment Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

312 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if refunds will be made to persons owed money arising from the introduction of the drugs payment scheme from July 1999 to March 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10881/03]

The drugs payment scheme – DPS – replaced the drug cost subsidisation and drugs refund schemes in 1999. It was initially introduced on an administrative basis, with the intention that regulations to underpin its operation would be introduced following amendment of the relevant section of the Health Act 1970. However, amendment of the Act was delayed and, following further consideration and legal advice obtained from the Attorney General's Office in October 2000, regulations made under section 59 of the 1970 Act, fixing the threshold for the new scheme at €53.33, came into effect on 1 March 2001.

Given that, as has been pointed out previously, claimants derived greater overall benefits under the new scheme, as reflected in the significant increase in spending, the issue of possible refunds was not addressed at the time. Following a review by my Department of the position in relation to this issue, it has now been decided that a process should be put in place for assessing applications for refunds to people who may be owed money arising from the introduction of the DPS.

There have been significant administrative issues to be resolved before a process could be put in place and my Department is addressing these issues in consultation with the relevant bodies. When an appropriate procedure is agreed, applications will be invited through public notice and each application for refunds will be con sidered under the terms of the agreed procedure. The final cost and the numbers qualifying for reimbursement will not be known until all applications are received and processed.