August 8, 2017

Irish Cancer Society calls for reduction and removal of statutory charges in Budget 2018

Increased inpatient charge ‘adds insult to injury’ for cancer patients

The Irish Cancer Society has called on Government to take action in Budget 2018 to remove and reduce charges that the Society’s Head of Services and Advocacy says are “driving people to the wall”.

Mr. Buggy, speaking at the publication of the Society’s pre-Budget submission, said: “We hear stories of immense financial hardship from cancer patients nearly every day, and it’s clear that many are struggling to cope. The January increase in the inpatient charge from €75 to €80 per visit, which affects cancer patients undergoing treatment, merely adds insult to injury, at a time when the State should be looking to reduce costs for patients.”

Despite indications from the Department of Health last September that the Minister for Health would use mechanisms within the Health (Amendment) Act 2013 to keep the charge at €75, Minister Harris signed a commencement order increasing the charge to €80 per visit, capped at €800 a year, later that month.

“Not only should Ministers Harris and Donohoe move to reduce the charge, which has increased by over 20% in the past decade, but the Irish Cancer Society is calling for the abolition of the inpatient charge, which is driving some hard-pressed patients to the wall.”

In its Pre-Budget Submission to Government, the Society says that cancer patients are being hammered financially by €80 in-patient charge, the prescription charge and the cost of medicine.

Cancer patients’ reduced income as a result of being out of work, combined with the additional out-of-pocket payments associated with having cancer mean that they are struggling to meet the extra charges being levied by the Government.

The Irish Cancer Society is calling for:

  • The prescription charge to be abolished.
  • The amount patients have to pay for medicine under the Drugs Payment Scheme to be lowered from €144 a month to €85.
  • The inpatient charge of €80 to be abolished.

The Irish Cancer Society says that this would save cancer patients with medical cards up to €300 a year and those without medical cards, up to €1450 per year.

“The Government needs to respond to the desperate financial situation of cancer patients, which is being made worse by the indiscriminate statutory charges being levied on them,” continued Mr. Buggy. “Since 2008, the Government has transferred the cost of being sick from the State to patients. People who are ill are less financially equipped to meet these payments than if they were well.”

Research commissioned by the Society called the Real Cost of Cancer shows that cancer patients are crippled financially by the double blow of a reduced income and increased costs.

The report found that the average extra spend per month amongst cancer patients surveyed, even those with a medical card or private health insurance, was €862, while those who cannot work, work less, or lose income as a result of having cancer, face an income drop averaging €1,400 a month, or €16,750 per year.

Mr. Buggy acknowledged some efforts had been made to address this in the last Budget, but felt it didn’t go far enough: “While we welcomed the reduction in the prescription charge for people over 70, which took effect in March, we believe action is required that will benefit the entire cancer population. Cancer doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, which is why we are putting forward three key recommendations which will make a difference to everyone facing cancer, rather than one specific cohort”.

Mr. Buggy also welcomed the recent recommendations of the Future of Healthcare Committee’s Sláintecare report, which sought to significantly reduce out-of-pocket payments: “We were delighted that the Committee recognised the often catastrophic impact high out-of-pocket payments have on patients, which we have been campaigning to reduce for the past two years. We’re hopeful that the cross-Party support for the Sláintecare Report will translate into real action to reduce and remove statutory charges in Budget 2018.”

“We urge the Government to implement the proposals set out in our submission so that the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis is reduced, so that hard-pressed families and individuals can afford to get by, and so that patients no longer have to face every day dilemmas such as choosing between paying for their child’s medication or their own,” concluded Mr. Buggy.

The Irish Cancer Society says its proposals will also benefit non-cancer patients on low incomes and people dealing with high medical costs, along with those who have neither a medical card nor private health insurance coverage.

View the full submission