# Making sense of the means test for over-70s medical card

## Q&A: Dominic Coyle

I read your informative article on over-70s medical cards of October 13th. I am finding it difficult to get an informative answer from HSE over calculation of cash income, etc, over the exemption limit.

It is €72, 000 for a married couple and €1 per thousand for €10, 000 after that and €2 for next €10, 000 and €4 per thousand after that. Take, for instance, that the cash savings was €130, 000, what would be the weekly assessment for the €58,000 over the limit?

Mr T.B., email

I guess the first thing to mention is that it is not just cash savings that come into the equation. It also relates to investments – such as property, shares or other assets. You do seem to have a good handle on it. If you are over-70, the first €72,000 of savings and investments are discarded for the purposes of calculating your income and whether you are eligible for a medical card.

If you are single, or widowed, the figure is just half that – €36,000.

In the position you outline, where a couple has savings and investments in cash or otherwise worth €130,000, you discount the first €72,000. That leaves you with reckonable savings of €58,000.

As you say, you will be assessed as having €1 in weekly income for each €1,000 up to €10,000, or a total of €10.

On the next €10,000, you will be assessed at €2 a week of means per €1,000 - a total of €20.

On anything above this, in your case, €38,000, you will be seen as having €4 a week in income per €1,000. This comes to €152 a week on that amount.

All told, you will be considered to have weekly income from your savings of €182 (the €152 + €20 + €10).

This assessment bears no resemblance to market rates, as you can see. On an annualised basis, the HSE is assuming that your savings are delivering income of €9,464 to the two of you. That presumes an interest rate or an investment return of over 16 per cent.

If the HSE can point anyone to where they could secure those returns on their savings, there’d be a stampede. To be fair, the idea is that, with a weekly income allowance of €900 for a couple – which amounts to €46,800 a year – and savings of up to €72,000, a person is doing well to be in receipt of free full medical care.

Yes, the figure for a single person – €500 a week or €26,000 a year with a further €36,000 in untested savings – is lower but so will be their living expenses.

And, in any case, even if your income is above those figures, you are entitled to a GP Visit card, which would at least cover GP costs, as well as an upper limit of €124 a month on their medicine charges under the Drug Payment Scheme.

As of next July, the weekly income thresholds will rise to €1,050 for a couple (€54,600) and €550 for a single person (€28,600), while the Drug Payment Scheme monthly threshold will fall €10 to €114 a month as a result of the recent budget announced by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.