Seriously ill patients hit by 'sneaky' new rules
CANCER patients face additional distress if only those who have a terminal diagnosis are guaranteed a special medical card to help meet their bills.
The warning came from the Irish Cancer Society after it was revealed that strict new national criteria are now being applied to the granting of discretionary medical cards to those with serious illness.
These cards are given to people on low incomes who fall outside the normal income guidelines but face financial hardship due to cancer or another illness.
Health Minister James Reilly and the HSE said all applications and renewals were now being scrutinised by independent doctors not known to the patient and that national criteria were being applied.
The issue led to heated exchanges in the Dail yesterday after Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald told Public Expenditure Minister the cuts were "mean-spirited and sneaky".
Questioned about the issue, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said: "I would find it very difficult to stomach that only cancer patients who are terminally ill would have access to a medical card. I would personally find such a move, if it is contemplated, very difficult."
Kathleen O'Meara, of the Irish Cancer Society, appealed to Dr Reilly to reconsider his decision.
"Our information shows that a cancer diagnosis can have a significant adverse financial impact on patients and their families in Ireland.
"If someone is self-employed, young, without private health insurance, not eligible for a medical card or doesn't have savings, they are left in a very vulnerable position of being unable to manage basic expenses such as heating and travel to hospital for treatment.
"We are hearing from an increasing number of these people."