Written answers

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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640. To ask the Minister for Health the expected reduction in the number of medical cards over the coming years as a result of the reduction in the numbers on the live register and rising incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1088/16]

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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As the Deputy will be aware, the medical card scheme is a demand-led scheme and the number of cards at any given time reflects those persons who have met the eligibility criteria governing the scheme. It is challenging to project precisely the potential changes in numbers eligible as persons who currently do not hold a medical card could become eligible due a change in circumstances, either on a means or a discretionary basis. Furthermore, existing medical cards, save where granted following discretionary consideration, are subject to a periodic review of eligibility which can result in renewal, change or removal of eligibility as particular to the cardholders’ circumstances, such as positive changes in income.

The HSE National Service Plan for 2016 assumes that the number of medical cards will continue to decline such that the number of persons covered will fall by some 50,000 from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016. This reduction takes account of variables such as demographic and economic growth.

While the number of persons on the Live Register may have reduced, many people who took up employment may have continued to qualify for a medical card on basis of being below the income guidelines in the means test.

The Deputy may be aware that people who have been unemployed for a minimum of 12 months can retain their medical card for a period of three years (without a means test) if they commence employment. Persons who take up approved training/work schemes retain their medical card for the duration of the scheme.


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