Spanish court suspends prescription medicine surcharge
Spain's highest court on Tuesday suspended an unpopular one-euro surcharge for medical prescriptions introduced in Madrid this year to reduce the region's deficit.
The ruling by the Constitutional Court came in response to a suit filed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government against the measure and just two weeks after the court ordered the suspension of an identical surcharge introduced last year in the region of Catalonia.
The Madrid region, which is also run by Rajoy's centre-right Popular Party, and the government of Catalonia, run by the nationalist Convergence and Union party, introduced the surcharge as a way to control their finances.
Spain's 17 regional governments, which control over a third of total Spanish government spending and are responsible for healthcare and education, are under pressure to cut their deficits to 0.7 percent of output this year from a target of 1.5 percent in 2012.
Opponents to the surcharge argued that it would disproportionately hurt those with chronic health problems and the elderly just as Spain grapples with a recession that has driven the jobless rate to a record 26 percent.
Spain's central government opposed the surcharge on the grounds that it violates citizens' constitutional right to equal treatment since it is not in place across the country.
The court said it ordered the suspension of the surcharge as a cautionary measure while it rules on the legal arguments presented by the government.
© 2013 AFP