The Constitutional Court bans the Catalan Government's drug prescription fee
Following an appeal from the Spanish Government, the Constitutional Court has confirmed the cautionary halt adopted in January 2013 and it has now definitively banned the Catalan Executive's drug prescription fee. The measure had been adopted to reduce pharmaceutical spending by limiting superfluous drug demand in order to reduce the overall public spending. It was one of the austerity measures adopted by the Catalan Government in 2012 to reduce public deficit, in order to meet the strict deficit targets imposed by the Spanish Executive. The measure meant that Catalans had to pay a one-euro fee for each drug prescription, with a maximum of 60 euros per year and with many exceptions for people with chronic diseases, on low incomes and pensioners. On the same day, the Constitutional Court has backed the Catalan Executive's judicial fees, also appealed by Madrid.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Tuesday, following an appeal from the Spanish Government, the Constitutional Court has definitively banned the Catalan Executive's drug prescription fee, confirming the cautionary halt adopted in January 2013. Back in June 2012, the measure was adopted with the indirect support of the People's Party – which runs the Spanish Government – but after the rise of Catalonia's self-determination demands, the Spanish Executive filed an appeal. The Constitutional Court has banned this measure but it has backed the Catalan Executive's judicial fees, also appealed by the Spanish Government and temporarily halted by the Court. The regional government of Madrid Autonomous Community also adopted the drug prescription fee a few weeks after Catalonia's, which was also appealed by the Spanish Government. The Constitutional Court has not reached a decision on Madrid's fee yet. In the press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, the Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, refused to provide a detailed comment on the Court's decision, since the news had only been released a few minutes earlier and he had not had time to read it yet. However, he regretted that those who have the tools to reduce public deficit do not do it enough and put obstacles in the way of those trying to balance public budgets, he said. All the political parties in Catalonia except the governing CiU welcomed the Constitutional Court's decision. Left-wing parties stressed the social impact of the measure while they criticised the validation of judicial fees since, according to them, they limit free access to justice. In addition, the PP washed its hands regarding the drug prescription fee and stated that Prime Minister Rajoy had not taken office when the measure started to be debated. Doctors’ unions also welcomed the ban on this measure since they consider it "a barrier" to accessing pharmaceutical treatments. Besides, Barcelona's Bar Association (ICAB) criticised the validation of the judicial fees, since Catalan citizens have to pay for these as well as for those of the Spanish Government. The latter are also awaiting validation by the Constitutional Court, but the ICAB fears they will receive a green light.
Catalonia's drug prescription fee had been adopted in June 2012 with the indirect support of the People's Party (PP), which has been running the Spanish Government since 2011. However, the Spanish Government decided to fight the measure when cooperation between the PP and the Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU) – which runs the Catalan Government since 2010 – broke down, in Autumn 2012, when the CiU backed the self-determination demands shared by a broad section of Catalonia's society and the PP frontally opposed them. On top of this, the Spanish Government also decided to adopt its own measures to limit healthcare spending. However, back in the first half of 2012, the CiU had approved the drug prescription fee with the indirect support of the PP to bring in new revenue and particularly to reduce pharmaceutical spending by limiting superfluous medicine demand in order to reduce the overall public spending. It was one of the main austerity measures adopted by the Catalan Government to balance its budget and reduce public deficit in order to meet the strict deficit targets imposed by the Spanish Executive. The measure meant that Catalans had to pay a one-euro fee for each drug prescription, with a maximum of 60 euros per year and with many exceptions for people with chronic diseases, on low incomes and pensioners.
€6.1 million earned with the judicial fees
The Catalan Government implemented the judicial fees on the 2nd of May 2012 but the Spanish Government had its own fees in place and it was planning to create new ones. Therefore, the Spanish Executive appealed them in order to abolish what they considered to be “a double taxation” on the same service. However, the Constitutional Court does not share this view and now has decided to validate them. According to the Catalan Government, the judicial fees should bring in between €11 and €12 million per year. Between May and November 2012, the measure generated €6.1 million in revenue.
€45.7 million were earned with the drug prescription fee and drug spending was reduced by 23.9%
The drug prescription fee brought in €45.7 million in 6 months and the total number of prescriptions was reduced by 21%. In addition, drug spending in Catalonia in November 2012 had been reduced by 23.9% compared to the previous year, because of this measure and the one introduced by the Spanish Government. The Catalan Executive initiative was implemented on the 23rd of June 2012, after having been approved by the governing CiU with the indirect support of the People’s Party(PP) – which runs the Spanish Government – in the Catalan Parliament on the 20th of March 2012. In addition, it had previously been validated by the Catalan Council of Constitutional Guarantees (CGE), an advisory body to the Catalan Government on Constitutional affairs, on the 6th of March.
The Spanish Government appealed the drug prescription fee
The Spanish Executive decided that the drug prescription fee approved in Catalonia was encroaching on its power to rule on pharmaceutical products., The Catalan Government – which is called the Generalitat – believed on the contrary that they could approve such measure as they exclusively manage the drug prescription system. Furthermore, apart from the jurisdiction consideration, the Spanish Government believed the measure makes residents in Catalonia pay more for their medicine than the rest of Spanish citizens and therefore it goes against the principle of “equality for all Spaniards”, as the Spanish Minister for Health, Ana Mato, stated in January 2013, when she was applauding the Constitutional Court’s decision to call a temporary halt. In addition, since the Spanish Government increased the share citizens have to pay for partially-subsidised drugs – a measure adopted after the Generalitat’s initiative –, the Spanish Executive believes that Catalonia’s drug prescription fee had to be abolished as Catalans are affected by two fiscal measures for the same product.