Written Answers. - Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

175 Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that ME/CFS is classified as one of the long-term illnesses under the drugs subsidisation scheme. [16162/96]

Limerick East): The long-term illness scheme entitles persons who suffer from certain specified illnesses to free drugs and medicines which are prescribed in respect of the particular illness. This scheme has not been extended since 1975 and there are no plans to extend the scheme. The long-term illness scheme, however, is only one of a number of schemes in operation which provide assistance towards the cost of prescribed drugs and medicines for persons with ongoing medical conditions.

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

Under the drug 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.

Where an individual or a family is subjected to a significant level of ongoing expenditure on medical expenses — general practitioner fees, prescribed drugs etc. — due to a long-term medical condition 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.

I am satisfied that appropriate and comprehensive support is being provided by the State through the existing range of drug schemes to people who incur expenses on prescription medication.