Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Department of Health and Children
At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Persons aged seventy years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card, irrespective of means. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.
Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. In June 2006 I agreed with the HSE to raise the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards. For Medical Card and GP Visit Card applications, the HSE now considers an applicant's income after tax and PRSI are deducted, rather than total income. Allowances are also made for expenses on childcare, rent and mortgage costs and the cost of travel to work.
I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible.