People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny previously wrote to the Health Committee to ask if they would consider including a review into medical card eligibility for the committee’s work programme. Bernard Gloster Chief Executive Officer for the HSE was before the Joint Committee on Health Sláintecare recently. Gino Kenny TD questioned him on eligibility criteria for medical card and asked that he review recommendations from a 2014 report, Report of the Expert Panel on Medical Need for Medical Card Eligibility, to see if they have been implemented, and to see where improvements are needed.
Gino Kenny TD said: “My office regularly has constituents coming in with long term illnesses who are struggling to get the services or medicines they need. There are people coming into me whose lives have changed due to a cancer diagnosis who are concerned that they may find themselves out of work due to the need for treatment. Many of these people are faced with a financial burden they cannot afford. I was disappointed that an opportunity today to commit at a minimum to review medical card eligibility for the first time in almost 10 years was not forthcoming by the HSE.
“It is going on 10 years since the HSE has looked at medical card eligibility on medical grounds and how effective the system of assessment for a discretionary medical card is working. “It is crucial we review the recommendations from 2014 and see if those recommendations have been implemented and if they are working and are fit for purpose in 2023.
“The medical card system means testing on income has not changed for many years, except for changes to over 70.’s card or free GP care for under 6’s. However, the list of expenses considered means testing for a medical card is limited- it does not reflect many costs of living expenses and the real net income of a household.
“In circumstances where persons have a medical condition, we need to be sure that patients are not facing undue hardship and those who need a medical card are receiving one. “My office meets patients whose real net income is not considered to qualify them for a medical card due to the limited means testing system, but because their illness is not terminal, they don’t receive a discretionary medical card. In some cases, those with a terminal illness are not receiving a medical card.
“Patients are going without follow up care and are not attending appointments due to the financial burden. It is long overdue that a review is needed for medical card eligibility. I will continue to push the health committee to look at this before the next budget and bring forward recommendations.”