Seanad debates

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

3:15 pm

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I wish to comment on the proposed Ombudsman, Mr. Peter Tyndall, as did Senator Thomas Byrne. The proposed Ombudsman acquitted himself very well and was recommended for appointment by the committee.

I know we have problems to resolve in respect of property tax and water issues. These are important issues, but I am deeply concerned about an unfair anomaly that has been brought to my attention in respect of the income ceiling for medical cards. A couple, whether married or in a civil partnership, are disadvantaged over a single person. The income ceiling for a married couple is €900 whereas it is €500 for a single person. In previous years, the ceiling for a married couple was double that of a single person. In 2012, the ceiling was €1,400 for a couple and €700 for a single person. Last year it was set at €1,200 for a couple and €600 for a single person. A couple with an income of €909 are just €9 over the limit, whereas a brother and sister living in the same house have an income ceiling of €1,000. There is a fundamental difference in how the HSE is looking at the criteria for a couple vis-à-vis a single person. I spoke to the Minister's adviser this morning, who defended this decision. I do not think it is fair. People have made the case that one cannot share medical treatment, or medication. It is not like sharing electricity or food. There is a difference. Will the Leader find out the reason for the discrepancy and why a couple is disadvantaged under the new criteria? Will he return to this House to tell us when it will be reversed? I do not think it is correct to discriminate against a couple, be they married or in a civil partnership as opposed to two single people living together.


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