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HEALTHCARE

Constitutional Court suspends copayment on prescriptions in Madrid

Decision follows similar move in Catalonia

The Constitutional Court has decided to suspend the copayment system for prescription medication in Madrid while it debates whether the measure is unconstitutional. The country’s highest legal body accepted an appeal against the application of a one-euro charge on every prescription signed off.

The court also accepted an appeal lodged by 50 Socialist senators against the measure, which was introduced by the Popular Party (PP) premier of the Madrid region, Ignacio González. He said on Tuesday that the charge would be removed “with immediate effect.” The system has been in place since January 1.

“From here we will have to try and find another way to balance the budget,” González added.

As was expected, the Constitutional Court elected to suspend the system in Madrid exactly as it had done in the case of Catalonia on January 15, again at the behest of the central government. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s administration had appealed against copayment in Catalonia on the grounds of unconstitutionality. The measure was introduced in Catalonia last June but the admission of the appeal signifies an automatic suspension of five months.

“We consider [copayment] to be a violation of the regulations laid out by the state to guarantee coordination of national healthcare and the equality of Spaniards. This measure represents a double tax on the acquisition of medicines,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría when announcing the government’s appeal on January 15.

The suspension of the system in Catalonia has added fuel to the nationalist fire, with the regional government of Artur Mas accusing Madrid of “sabotaging” its efforts to meet deficit targets.

González has always maintained that the measure in Madrid is “not discriminatory.” In 2013 so far, 1.6 million prescriptions have been issued in the capital.

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