The government's latest plans to make pensioners pay between 10 and 20% of their prescription charges has been met with alarm by support groups and associations across the country.
The news that Health Minister, Ana Mato (pictured), was going to put forward proposals today to abolish free prescriptions for pensioners, has been described as "very bad news" for the 8,800,000 pensioners in Spain, but most of all for the almost five million of them who "survive on less than 641€ a month".
Luis Martín Pindado, the president of the Unión Democrática de Pensionistas (UDP), says the proposal, which he has studied in detail, is worrying because of the effect it will have on the poorest pensioners, who he claims will have to choose between paying for their medication or "paying their electricity bill, their rent, or their food bill".
The draft bill, which is expected to be passed by Congress on Friday, will mean that all pensioners will have to pay a minimum of 10% of their prescription charges, rising to 20% for those with greater income. The government will debate a formula to help the chronically ill, by capping the charges at a monthly maximum of between 10 and 20 euros.
Pindado, who has been president of the UDP for ten years - representing 1,800 pensioners' associations de pensionistas and 1.5 million members - expects serious economic fallout from the decision. "Many will stop taking their prescription drugs," he warned, "and some will have to choose between getting rid of their headache or eating".
Others fear that it is just a first step in abolishing free healthcare altogether. The president of Federación Balear de Pensionistas (Balearic Islands' Pensioners' Association), Rafael Verger, made mention of the recent rises in electricity and gas prices, adding "and now it's our prescriptions. Soon we'll have to pay to go to the doctor. Little by little we'll end up paying for everything".