'No medical cards' for poverty at-risk


Nearly a quarter of a million people at risk of poverty were unable to get a medical card because their incomes were slightly above the eligibility threshold the Combat Poverty Agency (CPA) claimed today.

Access to medical cards, the CPA claimed, is the most immediate and effective measure to reduce health inequalities and improve access to health services for low income groups.

Research showed that in 2005, 229,000 people at risk of poverty did not have a medical card. Of these, 43,000 people were living in consistent poverty.

The Director of the CPA, Helen Johnston, said: "There is a need to ensure that the medical card threshold is indexed to the poverty line so that people on low incomes can attend their GP when they need to, regardless of their ability to pay.

"We need to recognise this reality in parallel with the role that public policy has to play in creating conditions for people to lead healthier lives," she added.

The findings come after a study undertaken by the CPA and the Economic and Social Research Institute, found that poverty and poor health are interlinked.

It shows that the pattern of health in the population closely follows the pattern of social inequalities in terms of income, education, social class and poverty.

Co-author the ESRI report, Professor Richard Layte, said that policies to reduce the reduce socio-economic inequalities in health cannot be dealt with the Department of Health and Children alone.

"Policies to reduce inequities will need to be formulated and implemented on a cross departmental basis, preferably with strong inter-departmental co-ordination," Prof Layte said.