PEOPLE who are being turned down for a medical card may be entitled to other benefits – but are not being informed of this on their application to the HSE, a junior minister admitted.
Junior Health Minister Alex White told the Irish Independent he knew of one person who sought a medical card and was refused, only to find out they were entitled to a long-term illness card.
Long-term illness cards allow free medication, although doctor visits must be paid for.
He was speaking after the Health Service Executive (HSE) appeared before the cabinet sub-committee on health to detail how it can improve its communications on the issue.
There is ongoing furore over the loss of discretionary medical cards and a clampdown on another 150,000 cards after the Budget.
Mr White said he had looked at a number of cases since the controversy arose, and wanted to have a system whereby if someone applied for a medical card, and was refused, that they did not have to begin again to seek a discretionary card.
He was echoing earlier comments by Health Minister James Reilly, who said: "I have now come across cases where people were clearly entitled, but they weren't aware that certain expenses were allowable and they didn't put them down. I don't blame people for that, I say that's a problem and a communications challenge for us."
The HSE was unable to say yesterday how many applications for discretionary cards have been turned down this year and how many have been removed.
Mr White said he would consult with GPs about the introduction of free care for children of five and under, which will not come into effect until next year after legislation is passed.
However, he declined to say if this would be part of a long-promised new contract with GPs for treating medical card holders. "We will talk to doctors in due course," he added. The existing system was causing delays, he added.
The National Association for General Practitioners initially welcomed the extension of free GP care to young children.
But it has since warned the proposal, as it stands, will be so onerous that doctors will not be able to deliver a proper service.
Spokesman Dr Andy Jordan said: "The minister, by making this announcement, has attempted to create a smokescreen, to deflect from the fact that they plan to make significant cuts to the health budget, and as a result must revoke medical cards from the most vulnerable in society."