Written answers

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Department of Health

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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135. To ask the Minister for Health the reason life-long required mental health medications are only free of charge for those under 18 years of age on the life-long illness scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22500/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Long Term Illness (LTI) Scheme was established under Section 59(3) of the Health Act 1970 (as amended). The conditions covered by the scheme are: acute leukaemia; mental handicap; cerebral palsy; mental illness (in a person under 16); cystic fibrosis; multiple sclerosis; diabetes insipidus; muscular dystrophies; diabetes mellitus; parkinsonism; epilepsy; phenylketonuria; haemophilia; spina bifida; hydrocephalus; and conditions arising from the use of Thalidomide.

Under the scheme, patients receive drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances directly related to the treatment of their illness, free of charge. Regulations were made in 1971, 1973 and 1975 specifying the conditions covered by the LTI Scheme, including mental illness in a person under 16 years of age. 

There are no plans to extend the list of conditions covered by the Scheme or the age limit in relation to mental illness at this time. However, I wish to inform you that it is proposed that the LTI Scheme would be included as part of a review of the basis for existing hospital and medication charges, to be carried out under commitments given in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy.

In the meantime, for people who are not eligible for the LTI scheme, there are other arrangements which protect them from excessive medicine costs.

Under the Drug Payment Scheme, no individual or family pays more than €114 a month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals with ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be eligible for a medical card. In accordance with the provisions of the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for a medical card is determined by the HSE. In certain circumstances the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card, even though an applicant exceeds the income guidelines, where he or she faces difficult financial circumstances, such as extra costs arising from illness. The HSE afford applicants the opportunity to furnish supporting documentation to determine whether undue hardship exists and to fully take account of all relevant circumstances that may benefit them in assessment, including medical evidence of costs and certain expenses.

In circumstances where an applicant is still over the income limit for a medical card, they are then assessed for a GP visit card, which entitles the applicant to GP visits without charge. Further information on the medical card scheme and the application process are available at www.hse.ie.

Finally, persons may also be entitled to claim tax relief on the cost of their medical expenses. This includes medicines prescribed by a doctor, dentist, or consultant. Relief is at the standard tax rate of 20%. Details on how to claim are at www.revenue.ie.


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