Thursday 22 February 2018

HSE hands back 8,000 less medical cards than expected

Leo Varadkar TD
Leo Varadkar TD

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE number of people who have had discretionary medical cards and GP cards returned is around 8,000 less than originally predicted as some have died or have recovered from illness.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said it has now given back cards to "just over 10,000 people" who controversially had them removed after a review between July 2011 and the end of May.

The Government, which suffered a huge public backlash over the removal of cards, ordered that the HSE end its review of discretionary card holders in June. It later stated those who lost them in the past two years should have them returned for 12 months.

The backlash led to a decision being made to ask a review group of doctors and patient groups to look at a proposal to give a medical card to people based on their medical condition rather than means.

New Health Minister Leo Varadkar has pointed to the difficulties of deciding which medical condition merits a medical card and which should be excluded. He will get the expert group report in the autumn.

Discretionary cards are given to people who are above the financial income limits but who have a serious disability or illness which leaves them with high medical bills.

At the time the HSE estimated around 7,118 who were on a GP visit card would be upgraded to a full medical card. Another 5,288 would have a medical card returned and 2,899 would get back their GP visit card.

A HSE spokeswoman told the Irish Independent yesterday that: "The HSE has returned cards to just over 10,000 people. As the files have been reviewed in recent weeks it has become clear that some individuals included in the original estimate are no longer ill, some have had cards restored to one member of the family – as opposed to the entire family- and some have passed away."

She said the HSE will cont-inue to process requests from anyone who meets the criteria to have their medical card restored, as set out in the government decision.

Figures for July 1 show that 59,378 had discretionary medical cards, up from 52,232 at the end of May before the freeze on reviews and the return of cards began.

The spokewoman said the July drop in GP visit cards is due to the numbers who were upgraded to a full medical card.

Another 5,000 who lost discretionary cards during the same two years may get them back on "mercy" grounds even though they did not co-operate when the HSE reviewed their eligibility.

The HSE said anyone who believes they meet the criteria to have their medical card restored, should contact 1890 252 919.

Irish Independent

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