HSE will review more card removals
A SMALL number of additional people whose discretionary medical card was removed in the last three years may be added to the list of 15,300 who are to get them back.
HSE chief Tony O'Brien said a system is to be put in place to show "mercy" to people with a disability or serious illness who did not co-operate with the HSE at the time their medical card was reviewed since July 2011.
However, when they contact the HSE they will have to show there was a reason for not providing the documentation which was asked for before they have their medical card restored.
Mr O'Brien said: "There may be circumstances where in a small number of cases the review was not completed. They may have been too unwell."
However, the campaign group Our Children's Health last night described the term "mercy" as extraordinary and akin to "poorhouse rhetoric".
It estimates that around 7,000 people may not have been able to co-operate with the review process because of illness or stress. New applicants for a discretionary card are "trapped" and at breaking point, it said.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly said the HSE would directly contact the 15,300 people in the next three weeks who had a medical card and had it taken away after it was fully reviewed between July 2011 and May 31 last.
He defended the decision to confine the return of a medical card or GP visit card to this group, saying they would have got the card originally with "local knowledge and input" before centralisation of the system in Dublin in 2011.
The Cabinet gave the go- ahead to the measure which will cost €13m and will be funded separately from the Exchequer and not directly from the HSE budget.
While this group can hold on to the cards until July next year, all other applicants for a discretionary card in the meantime will have to submit to a means and financial hardship test as normal.
Commenting on the move, Jonathan Irwin of the Jack and Jill Foundation said that while he welcomed the return of the cards there was a need to make it easier for new applicants.
Dr Reilly said the removal of cards from families had been an "unforeseen consequence" of the centralisation of the medical card scheme.
"It was not the intention of me as a doctor, as a minister for health or the Government I serve," he said. "I am delighted we have the result we now have."
Asked why it took so long for the Government to see the need for U-turn, he said it was only over time that it became more and more obvious that the centralisation was causing problems.