Sunday 22 April 2018

Surge in medical cards forecast

Eilish O'Regan Health Corresponent

THE Government expects a staggering 10,000 additional people a month to need a medical card next year, as more lose their jobs or suffer pay cuts.

There are now 1.5 million covered by a medical card, but those with the benefit who need medicines will pay around €2m a month in prescription charges next year.

The amount being allocated to pay for dental treatment services for medical card holders is being cut for the second year in a row, leaving people to rely on an emergency service.

GPs who treat medical card holders are to face deep cuts.

Their fees will be slashed by up to 50pc in some cases.

It will mean that their fee for a patient over 70 years of age in a nursing home will fall from €896 a year to €448.

Doctors will also be hit with an end to an allowance for a patient who lives a certain distance from their surgery and fees for evening and weekend visits to patients' homes are to be reduced by 22pc.

There will be abolition of the fund which provides GPs with grants to improve and refurbish their surgeries and they will also suffer a cut of 8pc in their fees for caring for female patients under the maternity and infant schemes.

There are cuts in grants for hiring secretaries and nurses.

It is expected the total amount taken from GPs, who got €500m under the payments, will amount to €48m over a year.

The Budget measures drew a sharp response from Inclusion Ireland, representing people with an intellectual disability.

Chief executive Deirdre Carroll said cuts in disability allowance and carers' allowance amounted to an direct attack on the living standards of their quality of life.

She pointed out that the carers' allowance is down, with cuts of €16.50 a week on the 2008 rate -- down from €220.50 a week to the new rate of €204 announced yesterday.

"These cuts are at variance with the National Disability Strategy, which is often spoken about by Government as evidence of their commitment to people with disabilities," she added.

Irish Independent

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