Wednesday 23 October 2019

More than 32,000 people to lose their medical card as unemployment falls

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than 32,000 people will lose their medical card this year as more fall outside the income threshold.

The number of full medical cards issued after an income assessment has fallen in recent years.

In particular, people who previously qualified for a card when unemployed but are now in a job are finding they are no longer eligible.

Ireland is approaching full employment, with the unemployment rate hitting 4.4pc, according to the most recent Central Statistics Office figures. Full employment is generally around the 4pc mark - 0pc is never reached because there are always people between jobs.

At the same time, the number of GP visit cards will increase by more than 24,000.

The trends show more are losing the full benefits of a medical card, which entitles a person to free GP visits, medications and hospital care. A GP visit card allows free GP visits but the holder must still pay for medications and hospital fees, such as the A&E charge of €100.

At the end of the year, around 1.5m will be covered by a medical card and 528,079 will have a GP visit card.

Meanwhile, the Citizens Information Board said that during the first quarter of the year there continued to be an increase in the number of questions from people about medical cards.

Over 80pc were classified as administrative or operational difficulties, with the most common concern being difficulties for clients in applying for and renewing their medical cards online.

There were also cases where applicants reported lost documentation. Others said they faced repeated requests for documents.

It also seems "that difficulties continue to be reported for clients who cannot access GPs who are willing to take them on as medical card patients", the report said.

In response, the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service, which runs the medical card scheme, said the launch of its online service in January 2018 was a most significant innovation in customer service.

This streamlined service allows applicants submit the full range of supporting documentation digitally, including photographs of relevant material and also negates the need for a GP of choice to sign and stamp the application forms.

A total of 73,036 applications for eligibility were submitted for assessment using the national medical card online service between January 2018 and May this year.

Irish Independent

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