Wednesday, 18 January 2023
Department of Health
Under the Health Act 1970, eligibility for a medical card is based primarily on means and does not provide for automatic eligibility based on having a particular disease or illness.
That said, it is vitally important we do as much as possible to support people with difficult illnesses such as cancer, including where appropriate through the provision of a medical card.
Where individuals might be in excess of the medical card income guidelines, every effort is made by the HSE to support applicants by taking full account of the difficult circumstances, such as extra costs arising from an illness. In such circumstances, the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card.
The HSE also has a compassionate system in place for the provision of medical cards where persons are in need of urgent ongoing medical care or when a patient is receiving end of life treatment – that is when patients’ unfortunately have a prognosis of less than 12 months. I am informed that generally, such medical cards are active on the system within 24 hours of the HSE National Medical Card Unit receiving a medical report and completed application form from a healthcare professional.
In addition, since March 2021, persons who have been certified by their treating Consultant as having a prognosis of 24 months or less are now also awarded a medical card on an administrative basis. This measure delivered the Programme for Government commitment to extend eligibility for medical cards to persons with a terminal illness and work is continuing on developing a legislative framework to underpin this administrative scheme.
What is very important to highlight to the Deputy is that medical cards awarded on either end of life or terminal illness grounds are never re-assessed by the HSE thereby providing reassurance and comfort to patients and their families.
Separately, I can advise the Deputy that, since 2015, medical cards are awarded without the need of a financial assessment to all children under 18 years of age with a diagnosis of cancer.
Further information can be found on the HSE’s website at: www2.hse.ie/services/schemes-allowances/medical-cards/other-types-of-medical-card/emergency-medical-cards/