Health Services Expenditure

Questions (261, 263, 264)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

261. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost to the State of providing free prescriptions for all citizens. [45502/13]

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

263. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the current cost to the State of providing free general practitioner care for those with medical cards. [45504/13]

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

264. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the current cost to the State of providing prescriptions for those with medical cards. [45505/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261, 263 and 264 together.

In 2012 payments to GPs for services provided to medical card and GP visit cardholders was approximately €440 million. The cost of drugs and medicines is estimated at just over €1.3 billion. It is not possible to estimate the cost of providing free drugs and medicines to all citizens.

Health Services Expenditure

Questions Nos. 263 and 264 answered with Question No. 261.

Question No. 265 answered with Question No. 247.

Question No. 266 answered with Question No. 262.

Questions (262, 266)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

262. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost to the State of providing free acute hospital care for all citizens. [45503/13]

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

266. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the current spending on acute hospital services. [45507/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 266 together.

Under the Health Acts all persons (not just citizens) ordinarily resident in the State are entitled to avail of acute hospital services subject to limited charges e.g. €75 per night in a public hospital bed subject to a maximum payment of €750 in any 12 month period. The HSE acute hospital allocation for 2013, as set out in the recently published HSE monthly performance report, is €3.704bn.

Questions Nos. 263 and 264 answered with Question No. 261.
Question No. 265 answered with Question No. 247.
Question No. 266 answered with Question No. 262.

Medical Card Eligibility

Questions (267)

Heather Humphreys

Question:

267. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health if he will consider basing the income threshold for the over 70s medical card on net income as opposed to gross income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45518/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the arrangements effected by the Health Act 2008, a much simplified system of assessment for eligibility was introduced in respect of persons aged 70 or over, based on the significantly higher gross income thresholds rather than the standard net income limits. Under the net income assessment system, allowance may be made for rent/mortgage, travel to work and child care costs. However, these would not be a factor for the vast majority of older people.

Alcohol Sales Legislation

Questions (268)

Heather Humphreys

Question:

268. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health the present position regarding legislation to tackle the below-cost selling of alcohol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45531/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government has approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse, on foot of the recommendations in the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group Report. Legislation is being developed to provide for, inter alia, a minimum unit price for alcohol. This is a mechanism of imposing a statutory floor in price levels per gram of alcohol that must be legally observed by retailers in both the on and off trade sector. As part of our work, a health impact assessment, in conjunction with Northern Ireland, has been commissioned as part of the process of developing a legislative basis for minimum unit pricing. The assessment will study the impact of different minimum prices on a range of areas such as health, crime and likely economic impact.

The provision of such a price measure for alcohol - as opposed to fiscal measures - is aimed chiefly at preventing the sale of alcohol at very cheap prices. A minimum pricing regime is a proportional policy exigency that allows the State to engage another parameter to deal with managing the supply of alcohol for the purpose of preventing its misuse. It is a policy aimed at those who drink in a harmful and hazardous manner.

Research and Development Funding

Questions (269)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

269. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Health his views on the multiple independent procurements of research grant management software by agencies under the control of his Department and the total cost to the taxpayer of these systems; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the same supplier has supplied all but one of these systems and that all are complaint with EU Commission standards on the exchange of research information and are all capable of being integrated into one grant management system, as has been done in the US and the UK, with the consequent savings that produces; the reason despite the existence of a national research platform report, no progress has been made on the implementation of an integrated national research platform; and if his attention has been drawn to the consequent diversion of resources in research bodies HEs and others to the management of these multiple systems and away from the proper good governance of public resources spent on research. [45568/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Report on a National Research Platform to which the Deputy refers was published in 2008. This report was aimed at generating a platform to house and view/search details of those researchers and projects funded by the various State agencies (to avoid having to search in each website). The only agency under the aegis of my Department to which the Deputy's question refers is the Health Research Board (HRB).

The HRB manages a portfolio of health research awards with a value exceeding €150 million. The HRB submitted a business case to my Department seeking approval to proceed with the procurement of a new grant management solution to replace two legacy systems which were not fit for purpose (issues pertaining to stability, high cost of maintenance and poor usability). The HRB received final approval of €100,000 for this system in November 2011. To date €45,000 has been spent on the project with a further €55,000 to be spent over the next three to four years.

As part of the process of seeking approval for a new Grant Management system, the HRB engaged extensively with other agencies and public bodies to explore collaboration options. This included a series of meetings with Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. In each of these cases it did not prove possible to align the individual business requirements with the procurement cycle in such a way as to allow the HRB to proceed within the time frame it needed to migrate from its legacy platform.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (270)

Seán Fleming

Question:

270. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health the expenditure adjustment that will be made within his Department in 2014; the full-year impact of expenditure measures that will be taken in 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45586/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The gross current budget for the Health Sector for 2014 is €13,263m, a reduction of €361m on the 2013 allocation of €13,624m. This comprises a reduction of €20m for the Department of Health (Vote 38) and a reduction of €341m for the HSE (Vote 39).

A total of €666m in health savings measures have been identified in the context of the Health Estimates to meet the overall health expenditure ceiling reduction of €361m, Programme for Government commitments of €57m, and health service pressures of €248m. Some of the savings measures represent the full year effect of initiatives taken in 2013, while others are new savings targets for 2014. The level of health services to be delivered within the available funding will be set out in the Health Service Executive's 2014 National Service Plan.

Challenging savings targets have been set in relation to medical card probity and pay savings to be achieved under the Haddington Road Agreement. Full-year savings for some of the measures outlined in the Expenditure Report 2014, such as Generic Substitution and Reference Pricing; GP Visit Card instead of retention of full medical card on return to work; and the Nurse Bank, are more difficult to quantify at this stage for reasons of timing and the nature of the savings involved. It should be noted that a number of the measures I have taken here are new initiatives, and for this reason I believe that we should take account of the learning from them as we implement change and reform our health system.

At my request, the Government has decided that the Secretaries General of the Departments of Health, Public Expenditure and Reform and the Taoiseach will engage in an intensive exercise to ensure verification and implementation of the proposed savings in the Health Vote.