Legislation to abolish in-patient charges for children in public hospitals and the introduction of free contraception for women aged 17-25 has been signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.
The Act will provide for the abolition of both overnight and day case public in-patient charges for children under 16 in all public hospitals, and remove the existing acute statutory in-patient charge of €80 per night.
The two measures are scheduled to come into operation by early September.
The contraception scheme will cover the full cost of prescription contraception, including the cost of consultations and the cost of fitting and removing various types of contraception.
It will also cover the cost of the contraception itself, including contraceptive injections, implants, IUS and IUDs (coils), the contraceptive patch and ring, and various forms of oral contraceptive pill, including emergency contraception.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly brought the Exemption for Children from Public In-Patient Charges Bill before the Cabinet for approval last month.
“I welcome the good news that the President has signed this very important Act, as the measures provided in this legislation are very much intended to support access to care for those who need it in a manner that is fair and affordable,” Mr Donnelly said.
“Abolishing acute in-patient hospital charges for children under 16 is focused towards easing the financial burden of parents or guardians when bringing their child to hospital for in-patient care.
“Free contraception is a cost-effective measure, reducing both crisis pregnancy and termination of pregnancy rates. Given that the costs of prescription contraception are typically faced by women, the scheme will impact positively on gender equity, reducing costs for women, but also benefiting their partners and families, starting with women aged 17-25,” he added.
“In the context of current cost-of-living challenges, I am delighted to be able to introduce these two significant measures aimed at alleviating cost pressures for individuals and families when seeking to access healthcare.”