Free contraception for 26-year-old women from January

Free contraception for 26-year-old women from January

The scheme will cover the contraceptive pill as well as other long-lasting forms of contraception such as the coil. Picture: Andy Gibson

The free contraception scheme is to be extended to some women earlier than expected, the Irish Examiner understands.

In Budget 2023, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly secured funding to extend the scheme to women aged 26-30 years from September next year.

However, women aged 26 will now be able to avail of the free scheme from their GPs and pharmacists from January 1, 2023.

Government sources have said the move to allow 26-year-olds access the scheme earlier is so that current 25-year-olds don’t “age-out” of the current scheme.

Women aged between 27 and 30 years can begin to access the scheme in September next year.

It’s estimated the cost to the State every year to provide free contraception free contraception to 17-30-year-olds will be €36m.

Earlier this year, the Government rolled out the free contraception scheme for 17-25-year-olds.

It’s understood Minister Donnelly has already consulted with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and pharmacies about the earlier than anticipated expansion of the scheme to ensure their systems are ready to support the roll-out.

The scheme is designed to remove the financial burden around contraception from younger people.

Currently the costs of these prescriptions are mostly covered for medical card holders, but those without a card can pay hundreds of euro in fees and prescriptions.

The deal covers the pill and long-lasting contraception, including coil insertions and women will need to show their PPS number as eligibility will be checked.

Meanwhile, it’s understood the wording of the amendment to the Patient Safety Bill to allow for full disclosure was being examined by the Attorney General last night.

The Cabinet last week agreed an amendment to the Patient Safety Bill to provide for open disclosure which will provide for open disclosure of completed individual patient requested reviews of their cancer screening by the HSE.

Under the proposal, all patient-requested reviews will have to be disclosed irrespective of whether there is a discordance or not.

The amendment will be tabled at report stage of the bill in the Dáil on Wednesday night.

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan had campaigned prior to her recent passing, for full disclosure.

Following a tense debate at the Oireachtas Health Committee last week on the overspend of €1.4bn at the Department of Health, officials are working to try to accommodate Minister Donnelly appearing before TDs and senators for further interrogation of the breakdown in spending tomorrow.

The amount requested represents 6.5% of overall health expenditure in 2022 and would bring the total spend for this year to €22.575bn.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane wanted officials to provide a breakdown between the original budget for Covid-19 and the extra requests, but this was not available at the committee last week which has led to Minister Donnelly’s reappearance this week to provide clarity on the additional spending.

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