Many of us come from European countries where a doctor’s patients have to pay a small, symbollic fee on a medical prescription – this has never been the case in Spain, however, since the Spanish Welfare State was born. Citizens receive their prescribed medication free of all charge over the counter – all medication administered in this fashion is paid for through taxes.
However, with the crisis gnawing at the rickety legs of Seguridad Social and the Sistema Pública de Salud, many regional governments are moving towards imposing a nominal charge on medical prescriptions, some off their own backs, others forced to by the Central Government.
The Rajoy Administration brought out a law obligating all of the regional governments to introduce copagos (prescription fees), which came into effect on the 1st of January. So far, only the Spanish, North-African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla have introduced the system. The reasons that the others haven’t range from the difficulties produced by the complexity of the system, to others, like Andalucía, because they outright refuse.
Those that are going to comply are: Navarra (UPN), La Rioja (PP), Valencia (PP), Castilla-La Mancha (PP), Cantabria, (PP), Galicia (PP), Madrid, (PP), Murcia (PP) and Aragón (PP). In other words, barring one, all are governed by the same party as the one in power in the Central Government.
The problem is – and this is the beef of the pharmacies – prescribed drugs sold over the counter in pharmacies will have the prescription fees added, whilst those prescribed in hospitals, wont, thus creating ‘inequality’ amongst citizens.
Another thing is, even if every region of Spain used the system it would only save 1.7m euros across the country – is it, therefore, worth the controversy? And why so little? Because it applies to 43 different medicines used in 157 different services for chronically-sick patients (cancer, sterility or hepatitis). Such patients will have to pay 10% of the cost of the medicine, not amounting to a sum higher than 4.26 euros.
Is the socialist Junta de Andalucia taking this stance as a vote-catching gimmick because of the approaching regional elections? Will this be another conservative, Central-Government blunder, such as the increase in IVA from 18% to 21%, which has only oppressed the economy with little or no tangible increase in revenue? And finally, will the Editor do something about that haircut of his?