Saturday 20 January 2018

Dail group wants 'Big Brother' checks on medical-card holders

A Dail committee has said there should be checks on medical card holders
A Dail committee has said there should be checks on medical card holders
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

MEDICAL card holders should be subject to 'Big Brother' style checks with bodies holding key information in order to signal who is no longer eligible, a report by a powerful Dail committee has warned.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) would be better off using its powers to get information from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection about card holders than carrying out random reviews, said the Dail Committee on Public Accounts.

The report said the current system of reviews meant that many vulnerable people, some of whom are old and sick, are put through unnecessary anxiety while they also place an administrative burden on staff.

Better risk-profiling based on non-use of the card and intelligence data held by other bodies would allow the reviews to be more focused.

This would give information to the HSE about card holders whose financial circumstances had changed.

The report said the HSE carried out two reviews of card holders in 2012, including one of 40,000 who had not used them in the last year. It resulted in 40pc having their eligibilty revoked.

Referring to the review of discretionary medical cards earlier this year, the report said it should have been handled "in a more delicate fashion" by the HSE, given the fact that many of these cardholders were initially granted one because of a long- term medical condition.

The manner in which the cards were distributed on a local basis, before centralisation, was a legacy issue of the HSE's own making .

"In that regard, greater care should have been taken with this vulnerable group, many of whom suffered from medical conditions that were not going to change."

The committee also pointed out that many were also entitled to free medicines under the Long Term Ilness scheme so the savings to the HSE in removing their medical card were "diminished".

Referring to customer service from the medical card section, the report said in many cases people had to deal with different staff members in the course of their application.

There were also high levels of mislaid documentation. Many medical card applicants, such as elderly people, are not readily able to copy documents before they submit them.

"The loss of such documents can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety among already ill people," the report said.

It said the HSE should ensure the medical card section is more customer focused and a dedicated unit should handle more complex cases.

Irish Independent

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