Government Publishes Bill for Scheme to Repay Long Stay Charge

16 March 2006

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D., today announced that the Government has published the Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006 to repay charges for publicly funded long stay care.

This Bill will provide for a scheme which will enable full repayments to be made to all those who were wrongly charged and are alive, and the estates of all those who were wrongly charged and died since 9th December 1998. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died before December 1998, in reference to the Statute of Limitations as indicated in the Supreme Court judgement.

The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation by reference to the consumer price index since the period of time that the person involved was wrongly charged. The scheme will be facilitative in that all repayments to living persons will be exempt from income tax and repayments will not be taken into consideration in assessing means for health and social welfare benefits. The normal tax and means assessment arrangements will apply to those who benefit from repayments to estates.

The scheme includes a provision to allow those eligible for a repayment to waive their right to a repayment and have the money assigned to fund one-off service improvements for older persons and persons with a disability. The application process will be as simple and as user friendly as possible while also providing appropriate safeguards against fraud and preventing the exploitation of those not in a position to manage the repayments which they will receive. Priority will be given to those who are still alive. There will be an independent and transparent appeals process.

The unfortunate reality is that a high proportion of patients have varying degrees of deteriorating mental impairment and the legislation will provide for the regulation of patient private property (PPP) accounts, including the administration of these accounts to ensure the money in these accounts is used for the benefit of the patient and that the money in these accounts can be invested on behalf of the patient. The legislation also allows the Minister to appoint an independent overseer in relation to the administration of PPP accounts.

It is estimated that up to approximately 20,000 people who are still alive and a further 40,000 to 50,000 estates will benefit and the scheme will cost approximately €1billion.

The Oversight Committee appointed by the Tánaiste to provide an independent input into the design and monitoring of the scheme is fully briefed on all aspects of the scheme and has provided valuable input into the legislation to date.

The governance of the scheme will allow the Minister to receive reports on, the operation of the scheme, the appeals process and the fund established to receive donations. This reports can be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. All accounts and funds related to the scheme may be audited by the Comptroller and auditor General.

The Tánaiste said “The repayment scheme will be simple to use and has been designed following extensive consultation and input from the Oversight Committee whom I appointed to provide an independent input into the process. The scheme will ensure that repayments can be made swiftly to those eligible for repayment following the completion of an uncomplicated application process. It is my intention that priority in making repayments will be given to those applicants who are still alive.”