Barcelona (ACN).- The drug prescription fee become effective on Saturday at Catalonia’s pharmacies. This measure approved by the Catalan Government aims to reduce healthcare spending by moderating the purchase of medicines, the final goal being reducing the public deficit. Each person buying medicine in Catalonia with a prescription will have to pay an additional euro, up to a maximum of €61 per year (€36 in 2012). 127,000 citizens will not have to pay the fee for social reasons. In total, the Catalan Ministry of Health foresees earning €50 million this year. According to the Catalan Health Minister, Boi Ruiz, they will be allocated to the public healthcare system. However, the measure has been controversial, and many citizens are against it. In addition, the Spanish Government has threatened to bring this measure to the Constitutional Court to stop it, despite having previously given the green light to the Catalan Government’s budget reduction in order to meet this year’s deficit targets. Besides, many chemists feel uncomfortable by having to raise the fee, but they ensure they are technically ready to do it. The President of the Catalan Government stated on Friday that “the fee is here to stay”, as it is “a need” and a way “to moderate” demand that “is already in place in many European countries”.
The Catalan Health Minister insisted that the fee was developed to avoid those on low incomes being affected. Therefore, every month, the Catalan Ministry for Social Affairs will inform the Health Ministry of the people who are excluded to pay the drug prescription fee for social reasons. They are those receiving the Minimum Insertion Income (RMI) (55%), receiving a non-contributive pension (44%), being a beneficiary of the Law for the Social Integration of Disabled People (1.2%), or being registered at the Fund for Social Assistance (0.04%). In total, the people excluded this month is 127,000.
The fee will not have to be paid for drugs received within the hospital or given by doctors in community health centres. In addition, if the drug costs less than €1.67 (7% of medicine), patients will not have to pay the fee.
The Catalan Health Ministry estimates that each Catalan citizen will have to pay an average of €13 per year and that around 12% of citizens (800,000 individuals) will reach the €61 per year, the ceiling set. The one-euro fee will be charged to everybody buying medicine in a pharmacy in Catalonia with a prescription issued by the Catalan Healthcare System, no matter if they are residents in Catalonia or not.