The Spanish Government to appeal to the Constitutional Court against Catalonia’s drug prescription fee
The Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, sees the appeal as “a sabotage of Catalonia’s public finances” with the objective of making the deficit targets harder to reach and then greater control mechanisms can be enforced from Madrid. If the Constitutional Court accepts the Spanish Government’s appeal, the drug prescription and judicial fees approved by the Catalan Executive will be stopped. Mas-Colell explained that this would represent a loss of €140 million per year. The Spanish Executive justifies the appeal because Catalan citizens would have to pay more than those in other parts of Spain. For Mas-Colell, this justification is “sarcastic” and “populist” as it is decided by the same government that “has not increased pensions”.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Friday the Spanish Government decided it will take the drug prescription fee and the new judicial taxes approved by the Catalan Government to the Constitutional Court in order to stop the measures being implemented. If the Constitutional Court accepts the appeal, the fees would be immediately stopped as a cautionary measure while they wait for the final sentence, which could take many years. For the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, this decision is \u201Ca sabotage of Catalonia\u2019s public finances\u201D with the objective of making the deficit targets harder to reach and therefore paving the path for greater control mechanisms over the Catalan Government being enforced from Madrid. According to Mas-Colell, if these fees are finally cancelled, Catalonia\u2019s revenue would drop by \u20AC140 million per year. The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáez de Santamaría, from the People\u2019s Party (PP), stated after the weekly cabinet meeting that Catalonia\u2019s drug prescription fee is not in line with the Constitution since the Catalan Government cannot rule on pharmaceutical products and because Catalan citizens are obliged to pay tax twice on the same product. After the Catalan Executive had approved the drug prescription fee, paradoxically with the support from the PP in the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish Government approved a similar fee. A similar case happened with the judicial fees: the Catalan Government decided to create new judicial taxes months ago and the Spanish Government is also about to adopt new judicial fees. According to Sáez de Santamaría, these new fees mean that \u201CCatalan citizens have to make a greater payment than those in other [Autonomous] Communities\u201D, which provokes \u201Cinequality\u201D. For the Catalan Finance Minister, Sáez de Santamaría\u2019s argument about \u201Cequity reasons\u201D is \u201Csarcastic\u201D and \u201Cpopulist\u201D, as the appeal is made by the same government that \u201Chas not increased pensions\u201D. According to Mas-Colell, pensioners would pay a maximum of 60 euros per year for the drug prescription fee in Catalonia, while with the decision of the Spanish Government not to update pensions according to the inflation rate, they will be losing 217 euros per year. The measure would also affect Madrid\u2019s regional government, which was planning to adopt its own drug prescription fee in its budget for 2013, to be approved next week.
For Andreu Mas-Colell, the decision of the Spanish Government is \u201Ca sabotage of Catalonia\u2019s public finances\u201D as it will prevent the Catalan Government from earning \u20AC140 million per year. This is \u201Cespecially important\u201D as it is added to the \u201Cbiased split of the deficit targets\u201D among the Spanish Government and the Autonomous Communities. The European Union is imposing a total deficit target for Spain\u2019s entire public sector, which later the Spanish Government will split following its own criteria and without negotiating with the Autonomous Communities or local governments. For 2012, Spain has to meet a total 6.3% deficit objective. The Autonomous Communities, responsible for almost 40% of Spain\u2019s total public spending and in charge of the most sensitive policies of the Welfare State such as healthcare, education and social policies, have to meet a 1.5% deficit target. The Spanish Government, which manages around 50% of public spending, has three times more flexibility, having to meet a 4.5% deficit. Next year, in 2013, Spain will have to meet a 4.5% deficit target overall: 0.7% for the Autonomous Communities and 3.8% for the Spanish Government. According to the Catalan Minister, the appeal aims \u201Cto sabotage the measures adopted to meet these deficit targets\u201D.
Making the deficit targets harder to reach in order to control the Catalan Government from Madrid
According to Mas-Colell, the Spanish Executive\u2019s decision \u201Cis about denying us resources, not about Constitutional reasons\u201D. If the Catalan Government fails to meet the deficit objectives, the Spanish Government has the legal justification to intervene in its finances or to take some devolved powers away, which would be in line with a centralist strategy to weaken Catalonia\u2019s self-government. In fact, Mas-Colell denounced the fact that this is not an isolated measure, since \u201Cthey tend to make things difficult for us\u201D with other \u201Crestrictive rules\u201D. In addition, he stated that after this appeal \u201Cthe Spanish Government has lost all moral authority to demand anything\u201D regarding the achievement of the deficit objectives. However, Mas-Colell insisted that the Catalan Government is committed to controlling the deficit, \u201Ccommitted with Europe and the Catalan population\u201D.
Catalonia\u2019s drug prescription fee
The drug prescription fee has been controversial since it began to be discussed. However it was approved with the support of the People\u2019s Party (PP), which now runs the Spanish Government and has taken the measure to the Constitutional Court. The measure approved by the Catalan Government aimed to reduce healthcare spending by moderating the purchase of medicines, the final goal being to reduce the public deficit. Each person buying medicine in Catalonia with a doctor prescription has to pay an additional euro, up to a maximum of \u20AC60 per year (\u20AC36 in 2012). 127,000 citizens will not have to pay the fee for social reasons. They are those receiving the Insertion Minimum Income Grant (RMI) (55% of the 127,000 citizens), receiving a non-contribution pension (44%), being a beneficiary of the Law for the Social Integration of Disabled People (1.2%) or being registered at the Fund for Social Assistance (0.04%). The fee will not have to be paid for drugs received at hospital or given by doctors in community health centres. In addition, if the drug costs less than \u20AC1.67 (7% of medicines), patients will not have to pay the fee.
The Catalan Health Ministry estimated that each Catalan citizen will have to pay an average of \u20AC13 per year and that around 12% of citizens (800,000 individuals) will reach \u20AC60 per year, which is the ceiling set. The one-euro fee will apply to everybody buying medicine in a pharmacy in Catalonia with a prescription issued by the Catalan Healthcare System, no matter if they are resident in Catalonia or not.