I always find Bill Jamieson’s comments engaging. I have to take issue with one point made in the recent article (Perspective, 1 October) regarding free prescription charges.
The introduction of the marginal cost-benefit analysis in the restricted sense of opportunity cost of free prescriptions versus more health services is a tempting but illusory argument.
A similar argument can be made for all public goods, fewer, more expensive health treatments versus more cheaper ones.
The answer is fairness and this can only be determined in the public sphere, which has been done.
The cessation of charges is in effect a tax rebate which seems to be very popular despite massive public sector deficits.
The pricing mechanism for prescription charges was archaic, ridden with contradictions, administratively incrementally burdensome and not fit for purpose. At its most pernicious it was a regressive tax on the long-term working sick on low incomes.
In truth, a large administrative burden was removed from pharmacists, as was the moral dilemma of giving alternative, effective non-prescription drugs to patients who could not afford the repeat charges.
Bill Jamieson’s argument does not account for better uptake of prescriptions, the completion of drug courses and the reduced stress on low-income families, which all have positive but difficult to measure health outcomes.
I hear the issue of prescription charges so very often from better off people in rude good health but I rarely hear the same people complaining about the cessation of toll bridge charges; perhaps that is because these folks are healthier, wealthier and drive cars. Fairness.