Discretionary medical cards rise
The number of people with discretionary medical cards has risen to 96,000 - up from 52,000 in mid-2014, when their removal caused major controversy.
Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said more discretion is now being applied to applicants.
"Greater discretion is being exercised by the HSE. This followed the measures announced by Minister Varadkar and I last year, when an expert panel report was published," she said.
"A key recommendation of that report was that a person's means should remain the main qualifier for a medical card. It also recommended that it is neither feasible nor desirable to list conditions in priority order for medical card eligibility.
"Every effort is made by the HSE, within the framework of the legislation, to support applicants in applying for a medical card and, in particular, to take account of the difficult circumstances in the case of applicants who may be in excess of income guidelines.
"Social and medical issues are considered when determining whether undue hardship exists for an individual accessing general practitioner or other medical services," she added.