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Over 700,000 more medical cards have been issued in the last decade

The biggest leap was between 2011 and 2012, when over 150,000 extra cards were released.

Image: Photocall Ireland

THE HSE’S PLANNED savings in spending on medical cards this year will still leave hundreds of thousands of more cards than there were ten years ago, according to figures presented to the Dáil.

In total there were over 1,853,877 in circulation at the end of November 2013, over 700,000 more than had been issued in 2003.

Figures for the last decade show that the number of medical cards being issued has been steadily increasing since 2004, even during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger.

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The figures, released in response to a request from Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, show that 2004 saw the lowest rate of medical cards being issued, but that the number has risen year-on-year since then.

The biggest leap was between 2011 and 2012, when over 150,000 extra cards were released.

Last month, it was announced that the HSE will seek savings of €23 million in medical card probity, down from the planned €113 million that was announced in the Budget last October.

The Budget announcement caused considerable controversy at the time resulting in changes to the plans when the HSE formulated its service plan for this year with overall savings in the health budget reduced from €666 million to €619 million.

In addition to medical card cuts being made through new probity measures, there will also be a raising of eligibility thresholds for those over 70.

Read: Gilmore: Medical card cuts are still as set out in the Budget

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

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