Prescription charges waived for asylum seekers

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has signed regulations to exempt asylum seekers living in direct provision from the prescription charge levied on medical-card holders.

Minister Varadkar said this exemption: “will relieve some of the financial burden on people living in direct provision, who previously were obliged to pay the prescription charge from limited State support.”

The exemption was recommended by the Working Group on Direct Provision and the Protection Process established by the Department of Justice and Equality. In a report published at the end of June, the working group highlighted the concerns of asylum seekers with chronic health issues about the affordability of paying the prescription charge from a basic weekly support of €19.10.

Medical-card holders are currently required to pay a prescription charge of €2.50 per item, subject to a cap of €25 per month for each person or family. For someone in direct provision, this can represent one third of their income, far more than any other group in society, whether waged or unwaged.

To date, the only other exemptions from the prescription charge apply to patients participating in the Methadone Treatment Scheme and to children who are in the care of the HSE under the Child Care Acts 1991 to 2007.