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Joe's joy at move on medical cards

BELEAGUERED Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has been forced into another medical card-related U-turn.

Last-minute changes to the Finance Bill will bring relief to thousands of card holders who will now pay a lesser rate of Universal Social Charge (USC).

The move was welcomed by Liveline presenter Joe Duffy, who told the Herald today that it has been the "single biggest issue" his programme has dealt with in two years.

"The national body politic was talking about the Government and Fianna Fail and change but ordinary people on Liveline cared more about this thing. The calls were unrelenting," he said.

It is the second time in his career at the Department of Finance that Mr Lenihan has been plagued by the medical card issue after mass protests by pensioners in 2008. His initial proposal in Budget 2011 suggested medical card holders would have to pay 7pc USC on their income.

But Mr Lenihan has backed down on that announcement and set out a reduced rate of just 4pc.


Some one-in-three people in the state have medical cards but many were to escape the USC anyway because their income is very low.

The Department of Finance estimates that the change in policy is set to cost the Exchequer around €80m.

Welcoming the change, Joe Duffy said callers were expressing "real pain and real issues", adding: "We've been getting calls since it kicked in on January 1. We did it every single day last week."