News Health

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Medical card review to stop immediately

Fionnan Sheahan and Eilish O'Regan

Published 29/05/2014 | 15:28

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Taoiseach  Enda Kenny,TD and Health Minister Dr.James Reilly
Taoiseach Enda Kenny,TD and Health Minister Dr.James Reilly
Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins
Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins

THE controversial review and removal of discretionary medical cards is to stop immediately.

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The Government has decided to call a halt to the removal of discretionary medical cards today in the wake of the backlash over sick people losing their cards.

The review suspension applies to discretionary medical cards.

It means that people who have been granted a discretionary card can hold on to them for now and they will not receive a HSE letter asking if they are still eligible.

Junior health minister Alex While also said an expert group is also to be set up to look at eligibility for a medical card based medical conditions

Currently medical cards are issued based on a person’s means although discretion can be exercise if a person has a medical condition which is causing financial hardship.

 “The government is very aware of public disquiet on the issue of medical cards,” he told the Dail.

He said new legislation will be needed if medical cards are to be issued on medical need but did not indicate how long this will take.

The decision on halting the review was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on health today.

A panel of experts will he set up by the HSE to assess the conditions that qualify under medical need, according to a senior Government source.

"It will address the issue of  medical condition," the source told Independent.ie

"It is understood that the HSE will establish a panel to assess the conditions that will qualify on medical need.

"In the interim, the review will cease."

The move follows Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s pledge to “fix that problem” around discretionary medical cards and people receiving letters from the Health Service Executive (HSE) threatening to remove their card.

The controversy around the removal of medical cards was regarded as one of the key reasons behind the Coalition parties losing so much support in last weekend’s local and European elections.

The Cabinet sub-committee meeting discussed proposals to deal with the manner in which the medical card review has been handled.

The cash-strapped HSE is now expected to be instructed to slow down the rate at which it is sending review letters to medical card holders to prove they are still eligible.

However, while this will reduce some of the attacks on the Government, it will also help plunge the HSE into further financial trouble and will stop short of calls for a restoration of cards to children with disabilities and people with serious illnesses.

The main option on the table at the Cabinet sub-committee meeting was stalling the process and coming up with another approach to deal with the issue.

The meeting came against a background of a worsening financial crisis for the HSE and a big jump in waiting lists, despite Health Minister Dr James Reilly’s insistence yesterday that some of the escalation was due to seasonal factors.

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