Dáil Éireann - Volume 504 - 05 May, 1999
Written Answers. - General Medical Services Scheme.
Mr. Haughey Mr. Haughey
203. Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an employed person aged 21 and over in a family household and a person aged 24 in October 1999 in full-time education are treated as independent adults under the drugs payment scheme and as dependants in determining household income for medical card eligibility; his views on whether these two positions are inconsistent; the instrument used to implement recent changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11360/99]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): The position is that everyone who is ordinarily resident in Ireland has either category one or category two eligibility for health services, depending on personal income. People with category one eligibility receive a medical card and can avail of services under the general medical services (GMS) scheme. Entitlement to a medical card is means tested and depends on personal income and circumstances. A medical card normally covers the card holder, his or her spouse and any children under 16. It also covers people over 16, such as students, who are dependant on the medical card holder. The decision on whether a person is regarded as a dependent or not is made by the relevant health board on the basis of personal circumstances. Similarly, in the case of an individual who is living in the family home and who is applying for a medical card in his or her own right, health boards take the individual's income and circumstances into account when deciding on the application.
People who are ordinarily resident in Ireland, but who do not qualify for a medical card, automatically have category two eligibility and are entitled to services available to people in this category, including the community drugs schemes. In the case of the community drugs schemes, the Health Act, 1970 provides for health boards to meet the balance of the cost or proportion thereof of expenditure incurred by a person on drugs, medicines and surgical appliances which were prescribed by a registered medical practitioner and were for the treatment of the person or his or her dependants.
The drug payments scheme (DPS) is being introduced with effect from July 1999 and will replace two existing community drugs schemes, the drug refund scheme (DRS) and the drug cost subsidisation scheme (DCSS). As with the DRS and the DCSS, regulations will be made in respect of the DPS prior to its introduction. Under the DPS, a person or his or her depend ants will not have to pay more than £42 in any calendar month for approved prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances for use by that person or his or her dependants in that month. For the purposes of the scheme, dependants includes spouse and children under 18 years. A dependant with a physical disability or a mental handicap or illness who cannot maintain himself or herself fully, who is ordinarily resident in the family home and who does not hold a current medical card, may be included in the family expenditure under this scheme, regardless of age. Dependants over 18 years and under the age of 23 years who are in full-time education are also included. The upper age limit is in keeping with recent family law legislation. A person over the age of 18 years, and who is not in full-time education, can of course avail of the DPS in his or her own right or may be eligible for a medical card.
The GMS scheme and the DPS are two separate schemes, one of which is means tested while the other is not. As indicated earlier, health boards take account of personal circumstances when deciding on an application for a medical card. If an individual is not eligible for a medical card, he or she is automatically entitled to avail of the DPS. I do not regard the approach taken as inconsistent. If the Deputy has a particular case in mind, I would be happy to make inquiries from the relevant health board.
Dáil Éireann 504 Written Answers. General Medical Services Scheme.