Changes to hospital and contraception charges

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Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly has announced that the Government has approved publication of the Health (Exemptions from Charges for Acute In-Patient Services) Bill 2022, paving the way for the abolition of both overnight and day case public in-patient charges for children less than 16 years of age in all public hospitals.  

The Minister also received Government approval  to bring a Committee Stage amendment to the Health (Exemptions from Charges for Acute In-Patient Services) Bill 2022, which will insert provisions to provide for the free contraception scheme for women aged 17-25. 

In-Patient Charges: Currently, public patients (including children) are subject to a statutory public in-patient charge of €80 per night, up to a maximum of 10 nights (€800) in a 12-month period. Medical card holders and other certain specific classes of persons are exempt from these charges. Primary legislation will be needed to set out the legislative amendments required to the Health Act 1970 to abolish the public in-patient charge for children under 16 years of age. The Minister for Health is publishing the text of the Bill and intends to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas as a priority with a view to its enactment without delay.    

Contraception: Those with full eligibility for a GMS (medical) card already have access to most forms of contraception at minimal cost (subject only to the prescription charge; €1.50 per item, up to a maximum of €15 per month), through the GMS (medical card) scheme, while those with a GP visit card are supported to some extent, as the necessary consultations are free of charge. Patients holding a GP Visit Card receive consultations, fittings and checks free of charge. Furthermore, the Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS), for which anyone ordinarily resident in Ireland is eligible, covers the cost of prescription items, including LARCs, above a limit of €80 per month. 

However, It has been recognised that the cost of accessing contraception, particularly for those who may still be dependent on parents or guardians, or who may be just above the means tested thresholds for the GMS and GP Visit cards, may impose a significant barrier to access; costs for the Pill and similar repeat prescription contraceptives can therefore be estimated at €65-100 every six months, and the initial costs of long-acting reversible contraception typically range from €250-€320. If the costs of removal are also included, the costs rise to €340-€470.