Medical-card users 'in hospital longer'
MEDICAL-CARD holders are more than twice as likely to visit their GP than the rest of the population, and they stay twice as long in hospital, writes Breda Heffernan.
The number of people with medical cards has risen during the recession with almost a third of men and just over 40pc of women now entitled to them.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal the link between a patient's medical card eligibility and the amount of time they spend at the doctor or staying in hospital.
However, the reasons are not solely financial. Medical-card holders are more likely to be elderly, or from deprived areas and these groups are more prone to sickness. Rising unemployment means the number of people eligible for medical cards has risen to more than one in three of the population.
The total cost of medical card and GP visit cards was estimated to be just more than €2bn for 2010, up from €1.85bn a year earlier.