Half discretionary medical cards 200% over income limit
Cards never allocated on the basis of a specific disease or illness says Minister
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly: addressing the Oireachtas Committee on health this morning Mr Reilly said a review of discretionary medical cards had shown almost half of reciptients were 200 per cent above income guidelines. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
Minister for Health James Reilly has defended the HSE’s processing of “discretionary” medical cards, insisting that policy has not changed in the last year.
Dr Reilly said the system continued to operate in such a way that those who suffer financial hardship as a result of a medical condition, receive the benefit of a medical card.
Speaking separately at an event in Limerick, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said up to 97 per cent of those over 70 would keep their medical cards.
But addressing the Oireachtas Committee on health this morning Dr Reilly said a review of discretionary medical cards had shown almost half of reciptients were 200 per cent above income guidelines.
Dr Reilly said following reports in the media of “vulnerable” people being denied discretionary medical cards, he had this week met senior HSE officials to examine the operation of the scheme.
He told the TDs and Senators that in March 2011 there had been 97,121 holders of discretionary medical cards and as of 1st of October this year, 39 per cent of those still held their discretionary medical card. He said 43 per cent had migrated onto an ordinary medical card based on an assessment of means.
The number of people who had been deemed ineligible for either a “GP visit card” or a full medical card was 6,324, or 6.5 per cent of those who had a discretionary medical card in March 2011, he said.
Dr Reilly said the assessment criteria had found that after allowances were made for loans, mortgages, rent, travelling to work and all medical expenses, 49 per cent of these cases were “still over 200 per cent above the guideline (income) amounts for eligibility.”
He said some “92 per cent of the ineligible cases “were still 50 per cent above the guideline limits” for eligibility “taking into account all the allowances available to them”.
Dr Reilly said that since he had become Minister for Health there had been 36,000 cases of approvals for discretionary medical cards and since January of this year had been “23,000 new medical cards issued on a discretionary basis”.
He said he had directed in mid-2011 that the system of approval for such cards be centralised, to eliminate regional inequities and ensure that “all people were assessed in a fair way”.
“So I want to ensure people that there has been no change in policy, but what there has been is probity”.
He also pointed out:
* an additional 250,000 medical cards are in circulation since 2011