Pressure on government to refund medical card holders in Limerick

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

Local SIPTU chairman Frank McDonnell looking for refunds for medical card holders
LOCAL medical card holders with a range of illnesses could be in line for a refund on their prescription charges.

LOCAL medical card holders with a range of illnesses could be in line for a refund on their prescription charges.

Until mid-December, medical card holders with one of a range of ‘prescribed illnesses’, including diabetes, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and cystic fibrosis, were asked to pay a €2.50 levy for each prescription item.

However, this was then abolished - but local union activist Frank McDonnell believes that many people were still paying the charge unawares.

He will now form a local pressure group to ensure those entitled to refunds get them - and Deputy Willie O’Dea is to raise a question in the Dail.

Singland man Mr McDonnell and his wife Kay both suffer from diabetes, and pay around €20 each per month for life-saving tablets to regulate their blood sugar levels.

“I want government to explain to me why they did not take out adverts in local and national newspapers, and on the radio telling people they do not have to pay the levy and more,” he said.

Mr O’Dea will also ask Health Minister Dr James Reilly this week what exactly will happen to money owed to patients, paying unawares.

Mr McDonnell said he is surprised the government did not publicise their u-turn on medical card charges.

“Millions of euro is being collected on this levy, which the minister has now decided does not need to be collected at all,” he said.

He has made contact with the Irish Pharmacy Union to ensure they make their members aware of this, so they know customers will not have to pay.

But he fears struggling pensioners may not have been taking vital medication as they cannot afford the levy in the intervening period.

“It is our belief now that people are not taking their medication because of this, and could become seriously ill. They would go to hospital, which they would not have to pay for, and it would become far more expensive for the government in the long run,” he argued.

Mr McDonnell - who believes he and his wife are owed around €70 between them - had argued against the levy for people with medical cards.

He pointed out that people who are not entitled to the cards would instead be given ‘Long-term illness books’, which provide for free prescriptions.

Anyone can get these books - apart from those with medical cards.

“This practice was very unfair. It would mean a wealthy person could have their medication free, while someone like me would have to pay a levy,” he said.

Mr O’Dea will call on the minister to refund any overpaid charges during one of the Dail sittings this week.