The Catalan government is looking for new ways to cut the cost of the region's public healthcare and one of the proposals, according to financial newspaper El Economista, is to introduce a charge of €1 for prescriptions issued by doctors working in the public health sector (read article in Castilian here, El Periódico). The aim of this would be to reduce the spending of the government on medications. According to the newspaper report, the CiU-led government is waiting until after the upcoming Spanish general elections to propose the idea to whichever Spanish party is victorious. France already has a similar scheme, with 50 cents charged for each prescription. "It would be a co-payment whose aim is to dissuade people from buying unnecessary medications, rather than a way to raise money, although it's true that it would pay part of the pharmaceutical bill of the Generalitat," according to sources from CiU in El Economista. Catalunya is the second community with the biggest spend in medications, with Andalucia heading the list. In 2010, the pharmaceutical invoice for the Generalitat was around €1.8 billion out of a total health budget of €9.9 billion. UPDATE: Speaking this morning on Catalunya radio station, the Catalan health minister Boi Ruiz, has flatly denied that the Generalitat is considering such a move.
The protest movement that started in Spain on May 15th (and which is known as '15-M' as a result) is planning a big comeback this Saturday with various demonstrations of 'indignados' here and abroad (read article in Castilian here, El Periódico). While the movement has been relatively quiet over the summer, especially in media terms, its members have continued to be busy albeit with different degrees of success, including trying, unsuccessfully, to get involved with protests in Catalunya against cuts in the health sector and managing to occupy Madrid's Plaza del Sol in advance of the visit by the Pope. Now they are aiming to motivate a worldwide gathering this weekend not only in Spain but also in dozens of cities around the world. It will be a big test for the movement to see if it still has local support as well as to discover whether its message has been heard elsewhere. With just over a month to go before the Spanish general elections, some of the organisers of the protests have admitted that the date of the vote could be useful as a sounding board, similar to what happened earlier in the year with the May local elections. "What happened in the summer was normal. People had exams, holidays, it was hot," said spokesperson for Democracia Real Ya (DRY) Klaudia Álavarez, one of the founding groups of 15-M, explaining the low level of activity by the movement during the summer. "Our visibility was also lower because there isn't now a point of reference like [plaza del] Sol or plaza de Catalunya. The fight has spread to many different places."
The large majority of people who are currently receiving the PIRMI financial benefit (renda minima d'inserció) have been claiming the payment for less than two years (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). The benefit, which is, on average, less than €500 a month and aimed at those with no other sources of income as a way to help them deal with living costs and the expenses of trying to return to the labour market, has become a kind of barometer for understanding the situation with the unemployed in Catalunya. Of the 31,000 recipients of this benefit, 75 percent have only been claiming it for two years or less, a period that coincides with a mass loss of job positions and with people out of work losing their right to claim unemployment benefit. According to data from the Department of Social Welfare and Family, there are four people who have been receiving the PIRMI for more than 20 years; 820 (2.6 percent of the total) who have received it between 10 and 20 years; almost 2,000 (6.4 percent) who have claimed it for between five and 10 years, and just over 5,000 who have been paid the PIRMI between two and five years. However, the biggest section by far is made up of those who have recently started receiving the financial aid. The Catalan government is currently examining the system for the benefit because it wants to avoid claimants becoming reliant on it for the long-term; changes introduced in August include the need for recipients to have been in continuous residence in Catalunya for at least two years and a limit on the number of monthly payments that can be claimed (now 60 or five years), whereas before there was no time limit applied.