Minister Stepehen Donnelly pushes to end hospital fees in Budget 2023


Hospital fees for adults could be scrapped and prescription fees reduced under Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly’s budget proposals.

The minister is targeting a big budget package for next week, aiming to cut healthcare costs for citizens.

Yesterday Mr Donnelly announced he was ending hospital fees for children, which cost €80 a day and are capped at €800 a year.

He is understood to have insisted in his negotiations with Public Expenditure Secretary Michael McGrath that the fee for anyone visiting a hospital should be dropped.

The minister has also pushed for changing the income rules for health cards to allow more people to claim the benefit.

writing in Irish Independent Earlier this year, Mr Donnelly announced that he plans to eliminate hospital fees to make the healthcare system more affordable.

“For far too long, access to care and health outcomes have been negatively impacted by the ability to pay. I believe health services should be affordable or free at the point of delivery,” the minister said.

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It is believed Mr Donnelly does not include any essential health measures in the government’s cost-of-living package. However, he has pushed for cuts in healthcare costs to be introduced in next year’s budget.

While prescription fees are falling, there are not expected to be any major changes to the drug payment system, which allows people to reclaim the cost of drugs from the government.

The Department of Health is expected to receive a sizeable overall budget package.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach said a reduction in basic charges on utility bills will be considered as part of budget negotiations.

That Irish Independent Earlier this week it was revealed that households are paying at least €300 on their electricity bill before even turning a switch, with some suppliers charging €700 a year in subscription fees.

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Micheál Martin ruled out food vouchers or stamps in the home to help people and said next week’s actions would focus on “financial support”.

The government has promised an unexpected tax on energy companies’ massive profits, and that money will be returned to the public in the budget through a series of measures including a €200 electricity loan.

“The state will source some of that windfall profit and give it back to consumers and households,” Martin said.

“We will also look into this with regard to the basic fees. There is no room for energy companies to take advantage of this situation in any way and I would be concerned about an increase in subscription fees in terms of how it would affect the public.”

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Mr Martin said there must be “clear transparency about all of this and proper explanations and accountability” from energy companies to the government.

He also promised that no one would turn off their lights this winter if they couldn’t pay their bills.

“People with medical needs in particular should not fear being disconnected at any point during the crisis,” he said.

Mr Martin said the €200 energy loan, tax cuts and a “cost-cutting programme” will be part of next week’s budget and multi-billion euro cost-of-living package.

“We would look at other areas there where we can cut costs across the board, really, how do we give people extra resources to deal with the crisis that has manifested itself in the form of energy costs and so on – that’s the approach that we’re tracking,” he added.



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