Saturday 7 December 2019

Editorial: Need for discretion on medical cards

Medical care. Photo: Getty Images
Medical care. Photo: Getty Images

While cost savings across the state sector are to be applauded in general terms, the way the HSE has approached the task of cancelling what were known as discretionary medical cards is causing unnecessary suffering, particularly to some parents of very sick children.

The recent examples of sick children highlighted have brought the issue into stark relief. No doubt the HSE was implementing the letter of the law when it cancelled these medical cards, but it does raise serious questions about how such decisions are taken and communicated to the people involved.

The idea of discretionary medical cards was obviously a sop to politicians at local and national level who wanted to go around telling constituents, "I can get you one of these".

There should be rules about entitlements to medical cards and these should be adhered to. But there should also be an official channel, free from political interference, to assess special cases.

Now we have a situation where a system that was set up to facilitate politicians is backfiring on them.

But surely with a budget of over €13bn we should be able to run a medical system which looks after the needs of sick children, and indeed sick adults, and gives them assistance because they deserve it, not as an aid to somebody's political ambitions. The HSE issued 'renewal notices' to the holders of over 600,000 medical cards in 2013. Obviously we are now learning of the hard and exceptional cases.

The HSE needs to be vigilant with taxpayers' money, but it also needs to be mindful of special cases and ensure that they are treated with the sensitivity they deserve.

Irish Independent

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