Dáil Éireann - Volume 531 - 01 March, 2001

Written Answers. - Long-Term Illness Scheme.

79. Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will consider including chronic arthritis as a long-term illness in the long-term illness scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6327/01]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The long-term illness scheme entitles persons to free drugs and medicines which are prescribed under a specific schedule of illnesses. The long-term illness scheme has not been extended since 1975 and there are no plans to extend the scheme to include chronic arthritis, having regard to the other schemes available to help people with the cost of drugs and medicines.

People who are unable without undue hardship to arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board to decide. In determining eligibility for a medical card, the chief executive officer considers the financial circumstances of the applicant. Income guidelines are used by health boards to assist in determining a person's eligibility. However, even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, the person may still be awarded a medical card if the chief executive officer considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis.

Non-medical card holders and people with conditions other than those covered under the LTI scheme can avail of the drug payment scheme, which was introduced on 1 July 1999, replacing [1372] the drug cost subsidisation scheme and drug refund scheme. Under the drug payment scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than £42 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The primary aim of the scheme is to bring about important improvements over the previous ones and is designed to be more streamlined, user friendly and to significantly improve the cash flow for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.