TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has insisted that medical cards are not being restricted to cancer patients who are terminally ill.
It came after the opposition complained that discretionary medical cards - which are given to those who exceed the income limits - were being withdrawn from people.
And Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said that Health Minister Dr James Reilly had said that cancer patients would only get a medical card if they were terminally ill.
In the Dail, Mr Kenny said that Mr Reilly had not said this.
"It's not true that you will not get a medical card unless you have terminal cancer," he said.
Under the current system, cancer patients do not automatically get a medical card. But they can get one if they are within the income limits.
If they are above these income limits, they can be granted one on a discretionary basis if their healthcare costs are extremely expensive. And terminally ill patients can be granted a medical card almost immediately on an emergency basis, regardless of their income. A spokesman for Dr Reilly insisted that he had made no comments at all about medical cards only being given to terminally ill cancer patients.
Mr Kenny said that there had not been a family in the country which had not been affected by cancer "including my own". He said that medical cards could be given on a discretionary basis even if people exceeded the income limits. And he said that 43pc of the population currently had medical cards - with the numbers increasing from 1.854m last year to 1.9m this year.
But Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said that people were now getting letters through the door removing their discretionary medical cards. He said he had spoken to one 68-year-old man with multiple conditions who had his discretionary medical card withdrawn - even though its expiry date was 2021.
Mr Kenny said he would raise this case with Dr Reilly.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny also backed a call from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for loyalist protestors to halt their sectarian aggression on the streets of Belfast after being denied permission to march through nationalist areas. He said he had seen "naked sectarianism" in the television pictures of the protests.