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Cabinet to consider revamped medical card plan

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Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD

THE long-awaited package aimed at easing difficulties faced by people seeking a discretionary medical card is due to be brought before Cabinet by Health Minister Leo Varadkar today.

The measures - which follow the public furore over the HSE's review and removal of cards earlier this year - will aim to avoid another backlash against the Government.

Discretionary cards are given to people over the income limit who face financial hardship due to an illness. Under the new proposals national eligibility criteria will remain but there will be more information obtained through local input from health professionals and others on each individual's case.

A card will be given to a child with the illness rather than their entire family. There will also be more transparency about the assessment process.

All illnesses will be considered for a discretionary card.

People who are terminally ill will no longer be subject to formal review of eligibility.

However, legislation is likely to be needed to provide more automatic access to people who need therapies.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said yesterday he is still hopeful about introducing free GP care for all children under six and the over 70s in the first quarter of next year.

The provision of free care for the under-sixes is the "law of the land" and enshrined in legislation, he added.

Talks are still underway with doctors' organisations on the proposed scheme and he was anxious these will be resolved in order to allow for more improvements to be made in the care of people with long-term illnesses outside of hospital.

"What I find frustrating is that I want to move on to do other things in general practice such are moving chronic disease management into general practice. But what is holding it up is the failure to implement the law," he said.

He is to receive the national service plan from the HSE this week, setting out the funding and services to be provided in 2015.

HSE chief Tony O'Brien said yesterday it will need a bailout of €510m this year due to over-spending.

The health service will continue to have to make savings in its budget next year and it is unclear where this axe will fall. It will continue to face increasing demands, particularly at hospital level.

Waiting lists are expected to remain under huge pressure in 2015.

Irish Independent