57,000 will lose their medical cards in 2018
Around 57,000 are to lose their medical cards this year, in keeping with a trend which started in 2015.
A new report from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to accompany the Budget shows medical card numbers have dropped by 11pc, covering 1.58m people in the last three years as the economy recovered and eligibility dropped.
The fall has given the Government room to relax the eligibility criteria in the Budget for GP visit cards, which is less costly.
The improvement in the income threshold announced by Health Minister Simon Harris on Budget day wil bring another 100,000 people in to the GP visit card net.
While the number of medical cards fell in the last three years at the same time the number of GP cards have tripled.
There are now just under 500,000 people with a GP visit card , driven by free cards for all under-sixes and over-70s.
There has been a fall in spending on drugs for medical card holders but it has been offset by a rise in the bill for medicines in the high-tech scheme.
The report said that children aged 5-15 years, the 65-69 year olds and those over 70 have a "disproportionately high" level of medical cards.
Meanwhile a separate report shows that the private health insurance income to public hospitals has fallen.
It linked this to the campaign by private health insurers telling their customers not to sign forms saying they are privately insured if they are placed in a public rather than private bed.
They will continue to be treated but as a public patient.
The insurers embarked on their campaign after public hospitals decided to charge over €800 if an insured patient is placed in a public bed.
A public bed costs €80.
The insurers blamed price hikes on higher costs which arose when full bed charges were introduced in 2014.