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Dublin: 19 °C Wednesday 23 July, 2014

Reilly: 2014 will be the most challenging year ever for health services

The Minister for Health was speaking in the Dáil today where he defended the decision to lower medical card income limits.

DISCUSSION OF MEASURES which will lower income limits for medical cards for the over 70s was heated as James Reilly faced stiff opposition from government TDs today.

The Minister for Health was discussing the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Bill 2013 which will play a part in making next year what he called ”the most challenging for the health services” ever, although patient safety remains a priority.

He defended the measures by noting that while less people will be entitled to medical cards, more people will be able to access free GP visits than before and have some costs reduced on prescription medicine.

He said there has a been a rise of 60% in the number of people with medical cards over the past decade, which he called a “reflection on the nature of our economic meltdown”.

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Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher said that although the Minister says recent measures are the first steps towards introducing universal healthcare, that he is actually “limiting access to more people” in a “shameful reversal of policy”.

He referenced a 2008 motion by Fine Gael, then in opposition, which attacked the Fianna Fáil government for withdrawing the automatic entitled to a medical card for the over 70s, a decision Reilly called “penny wise but pound foolish” at the time:

[The over 70s] are the people who made this country what it is today, notwithstanding the Government’s best efforts to undermine them. They raised us, nursed us when we were sick, protected us from violence, grew our food and ran a proud Civil Service. Are we to repay them by taking away something which was freely given by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Martin, and his Government in 2001?

Various parts of this motion were echoed later by TDs such as Charlie McConalogue and Colm Keaveney.

Deputy Keaveney said that the government “talked the talk, but lamentably, no great surprise, failed to walk the walk”.

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“This is another measure that will drive a wedge between citizens and the government,” he said, “and sets out to kill off the remains of social solidarity in this country. This bill will leave many more facing into uncertainty with their best friend — fear.”

The debate on the Health Bill 2013 continues tomorrow in the Dáil.

Read: IMO accuses Reilly of ‘racing ahead’ with extension of free GP care >

More: Reilly apologises over medical card problems >

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