Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Department of Health and Children
Question 176: To ask the Minister for Health and Children the cost per year of increasing the medical card threshold by an additional €66 per week for a single person, €158.50 for a couple and €40 for each dependent child aged up to 18 as proposed by the Combat Poverty Agency. [28403/07]
Since the beginning of 2005 I have introduced a number of significant changes to the manner in which the assessment for medical cards and GP visit cards is undertaken. The assessment guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29%. Applications are now considered on the basis of income net of tax and PRSI and allowance is made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work. In June 2006, I agreed with the Health Service Executive (HSE) a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those used in respect of medical cards.
My Department does not hold data which would enable the effect, and hence the cost, of implementing the proposals of Combat Poverty in relation to the assessment guidelines to be estimated.
The Programme for Government commits to the following:
Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;
Implementation of an annual publicity campaign and making applications easier so as to increase uptake amongst those who are eligible for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards;
Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability;
Allowing people with disabilities to work without losing key essential medical card cover after 3 years.
My Department is at present considering the steps required to enable these commitments to be implemented. My Department is also examining the steps necessary to give effect to the Towards 2016 commitment to review the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of medical, social and economic/financial need with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card.