One million medical cards to come under review
MORE than one million medical cards are to be subject to inspection next year in the biggest review in the history of the scheme, it emerged today.
It will mean one in every two medical card holders will have to prove they are still eligible for the benefit.
Health Service Executive (HSE) chief Tony O’ Brien announced the intensive surveillance – the largest since the scheme started – when he was quizzed by members of the Dail Committee on Public Accounts.
He insisted that nobody who is eligible for a card will lose it and the test for a discretionary card, for those over the income limit who have an illness, will continue to be “undue hardship”, not the medical condition itself.
Mr O Brien, who was appearing with Department of Health officials insisted there was no change in policy in relation to discretionary medical cards but said the system is now centralised which means the same criteria is applied nationally.
“The medical card centralisation project, which commenced in 2011, has been successfully delivered. Medical Card processing is now carried out with single national governance in a central office location compared with the 100 different locations in the past.
The HSE’s Director of Primary Care, John Hennessy said a “small number” of people who received a discretionary medical card under these local scheme have since been reviewed and they are now deemed ineligible under the centralised national guidelines.
Mr O’ Brien told the committee that” customer service processes, assessment of applications and reviews, correspondence and the application of discretion are now operated in a consistent and equitable manner across the country.”
He warned that the HSE will continue the focus on” medical card probity” into 2014. In the nine month period from January 2013 to September 2013.”We have initiated 428,682 medical card reviews. We plan to more than double this level of review activity in 2014.
“Since the guidelines have been substantially reduced for those 70 years and older, we are required to review the means of over 350,000 individuals in this cohort completely with the exception of those reviewed in 2013 and where income levels are already held on file by the HSE,” he added.
He estimated that around 10pc of these will be provided with a GP visit card in place of their full eligibility.
Mr O Brien said that since centralisation; 106,828 individuals whose medical cards had been inactive have been contacted requesting residence confirmation. As of 1 October 2013, 68,333 individuals (64pc) had confirmed residence, and eligibility was removed in relation to 38,495 (36pc).
He added that the Comptroller and Auditor General commenced an examination of the medical card system in June 2013 and completed this in September 2013. The audit report produced six recommendations and these have been fully agreed by the HSE for implementation.