Measures aimed at reducing the cost of accessing healthcare that were outlined in Budget 2020 have been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The budget provided for a reduction in the monthly maximum to be paid for approved medicines under the Drugs Payment Scheme from €124 to €114 from 1 September.

However, the Department of Health said the necessary savings in the health budget have not been realised due to Covid-19. 

It said decisions on the associated funding and a potential implementation date are being considered.

An increase to medical card gross income limits have also been delayed.

Limits for those aged 70 and over were to increase to €550 per week for a single person and €1,050 per week for a couple in July.

However, the department said it was not possible to legislate for the necessary amendments to the 1970 Health Act until there was a fully constituted Dáil and Seanad. 

It is now considering a start date and funding requirements.

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An early priority of the National Oral Health Policy was the rollout of packages of care for children under six, but this has also been delayed due to the pandemic.

The Health (General Practitioner Service and Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Act 2020, which was signed in August, provides for the phased expansion of free GP care to children aged 12 and under. 

The department said the date for the initial stage of this plan, aimed at children between six and eight, has not yet been decided.

"The appropriate date for commencing the expansion remains under consideration in light of Covid-19 and the additional pressures the expansion might place on general practice in that context and in anticipation of the usual increase in demand for healthcare services over the winter period," a statement said.

The date will be determined in connection with the Irish Medical Organisation.

The department said it is important to ensure that any additional pressures placed on GPs will not limit their capacity to meet the needs of all patients in the community.