Enda Kenny denies only cancer patients who are terminal to get medical cards

Case-by-case analysis is Government policy, says Taoiseach

Micheál Martin claimed there was a persistent, underhand campaign to reduce the number of discretionary medical cards

Micheál Martin claimed there was a persistent, underhand campaign to reduce the number of discretionary medical cards

Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 01:00

MICHAEL O’REGAN


Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was untrue to say that only cancer patients with a terminal condition would be given medial cards.

He said the Health Act 1970 set out the general principle that “a person is entitled to comprehensive free medical care in the medical card system in situations where, by virtue of hardship or financial difficulties, he or she cannot meet the costs’’. Mr Kenny added that the Government’s policy “allows for a case-by-case analysis of whatever the consequences of a diagnosis might be’’.


‘Huge anxiety’
The Taoiseach was replying to Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin, who said that in recent months, thousands of people had received letters from the HSE initiating reviews of their medical-card entitlements and, in many instances, removing their cards. “This has caused huge anxiety, grief and concern throughout the country,’’ he added. “Many of these people are elderly.’’

Mr Martin claimed there was a persistent, underhand campaign to reduce the number of discretionary medical cards, which were for people over the income limit but who had chronic long-term illness necessitating high medication costs and visits to doctors.

Medical cards had always been reviewed on an annual or biannual basis, he said. Sometimes people moved away or passed on and sometimes an ailment cleared up but discretionary cards were of a particular type and issued to people with particular problems, the Taoiseach told the Dáil.

Mr Martin urged the Taoiseach to reverse the policy on cancer and discretionary medical cards, which had been signalled in the budget when it was stated 20,000 cards would be taken out of the system this year.

“It was under the radar and buried in the detailed documentation of the budget,’’ he said.

Mr Kenny said medical science had advanced to a great degree over the past 30 years and many of the initial diagnoses of cancer were treatable and people moved on to live very normal lives for a very long time.

Covered
“A total of 43 per cent of the population now have medical cards and last year the number of people covered was 1.854 million,’’ the Taoiseach said.

“This year, we want the figure to reach 1.9 million people.’’

Mr Kenny said it was not true, as he understood it, to say that Minister for Health James Reilly or the HSE had said someone would not receive a medical card unless they had terminal cancer.

“The Minister disagrees with this and it is clear he did not state this.’’