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Long-Term Illness Scheme set for further review

Following a review of the scheme last year, the Department of Health has said it “is to be included in a review of the basis for existing hospital and medication charges, to be carried out under commitments given in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy”.

The 2018 review found no reliable instrument to compare needs from different conditions, it is understood. The proposed review under Sláintecare, which plans to provide “universal eligibility” to healthcare for all, is due for completion in 2020, according to the Department’s spokesperson. “Exactly what they’ll propose and its implementation timeline won’t be known until nearer that date,” the spokesperson said.

The LTI Scheme was established in 1970 and no new conditions have been added since the 1970s.

In recent years, campaigners have called for an extension of conditions covered under the scheme and for a more comprehensive response to the needs of those with long-term illnesses.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has repeatedly said there are no plans to extend the  conditions covered, which include cystic fibrosis; multiple sclerosis; diabetes insipidus; muscular dystrophies; diabetes mellitus; parkinsonism; epilepsy; phenylketonuria; haemophilia; spina bifida; hydrocephalus; and conditions arising from the use of thalidomide.

Under the scheme, patients receive drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances directly related to the treatment of their illness, free-of-charge. The number of claimants under the scheme continues to increase yearly, rising from 71,000 in 2013 to over 166,000 in 2017. In 2017, over €221 million was paid to pharmacists under the scheme, which is more than double the cost in 2013, when €106 million was paid out.

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