Saturday 22 October 2016

Elderly need €5-a-week pension increase and cut in medical bills - report

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

An increase of €5-a-week in the pension and a reduction in the prescription charge for medical card holders to €1.50 are among key measures needed in the upcoming Budget, according to a submission by Age Action Ireland.

Next month's Budget is expected to contain a number of measures to woo the grey vote in the upcoming general election with pressure on Social Protection Minister Joan Burton and Health Minister Leo Varadkar in particular to deliver.

Age Action, in a costed pre-Budget submission, said the rise in the old age pension would mean an increase in exchequer spending of around €117.5m.

Its report said it was essential in order to address the cumulative impact of previous budgets in terms of loss of income and the introduction of new levies such as water charges.

"Since 2009, an older person depending on the State pension and the Household Benefits Package has seen their income cut by more than €13-a-week," said the organisation head of advocacy, Justin Moran.

He warned that many are struggling to pay taxes along with rising fuel and health costs.

The living alone allowance needs to be increased by €2.40 and the telephone allowance should be restored over the next two Budgets.

The prescription charge for medical card holders - which this Government originally promised to abolish but hiked to €2.50 - should be cut to €1.50, and capped at €10.50 for an individual.

The income from the charge now goes directly towards the Health Service Executive's funding. A reduction would cost around €40m.

Age Action said it regularly gets calls from the elderly who are driven to ration their drugs due to the charge.

They are asking their pharmacist which drugs they can do without as prescription charges mean they cannot afford medicines recommended by their GP, the submission claimed.

People without a medical card can end up paying €1,728-a-year for medicines under the Drugs Payment Scheme. This should be cut from €144 to €100 maximum per month, Age Action suggested.

The document also called for an additional €15m for home help services.

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