Written answers

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Department of Health

Medical Card Eligibility

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail)
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227. To ask the Minister for Health the criteria used in assessing an application for a medical card for a patient who is diagnosed with cancer and is embarking on chemotherapy; the point of the diagnosis at which the medical card is automatically granted; if the fact that the cost of cancer care is greatest at initial diagnosis when chemotherapy is prescribed will be taken into account in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27765/16]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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In accordance with the provisions of the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for a medical card is determined by the HSE. The Act obliges the HSE to assess whether a person is unable, without due hardship, to arrange general practitioner services for himself or herself and his or her family, having regard to his or her overall financial position and reasonable expenditure and every application must be assessed on that basis. Under the legislation, having a particular illness, in itself, does not establish eligibility for a medical card and therefore, the medical conditions of applicants for this scheme are not monitored on that basis. Where the applicant's income is within the income guidelines, a medical card or GP visit card will be awarded.

Every effort is made by the HSE, within the framework of the legislation, to support applicants in applying for a medical card and, in particular, to take full account of the difficult circumstances in the case of applicants who may be in excess of the income guidelines. In certain circumstances, the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card, even though an applicant exceeds his or her income threshold, where he or she faces difficult financial circumstances, such as extra costs arising from an illness. Social and medical issues are considered when determining whether undue hardship exists for an individual accessing general practitioner or other medical services. The HSE affords applicants the opportunity to furnish supporting information and documentation to fully take account of all the relevant circumstances that may benefit them in the assessment, including medical evidence of cost and necessary expenses.

The HSE has a system in place for the provision of medical cards in response to an emergency situation for persons with a serious medical condition in need of urgent or on-going medical care that they cannot afford and persons in palliative care, who are terminally ill. With the exception of terminally ill patients, all medical cards, granted on an emergency basis, are issued on the basis that the patient is eligible for a medical card on the basis of means or undue hardship, and will follow up with a full application within a number of weeks of receiving the medical card eligibility. These cards are issued within 24 hours of receipt of the required patient details and a letter which confirms the medical condition from a doctor or consultant. For terminally ill persons, no means test applies and the cards are not renewed.

I can clarify for the Deputy that Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.


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