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Leo tells health lobby: Stop attacking me and weakening me

The Health Minister has said he will consider proposals from an expert panel on medical card eligibility.

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated 7.05pm 

HEALTH MINISTER LEO Varadkar has admitted you would need the “wisdom of Solomon” to decide which illnesses should automatically entitle a person to a medical card.

Varadkar warned last week that plans to grant medical cards on the grounds of medical condition may be unworkable and result in nearly everyone qualifying for a card.

This has drawn a concerned response from groups such as the Jack and Jill Foundation which says it has been inundated with complaints and worries from concerned parents following Vardkar’s comments.

But a spokesperson for the minister insisted today that Varadkar’s sole priority is to ensure cards are allocated “in the fairest and most equitable manner possible”.

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School this evening, Varadkar appealed to the health lobby groups to stop attacking him as he faces into “very difficult budget negotiations” in the coming months.

He said: “I am going into very difficult budget negotiations in the next few months to try and secure the biggest budget possible for health and having health interest groups attack me and weaken me is not good for health or people who need to use our health services.”

Wisdom of Solomon

On discretionary medical cards that have been restored to some 15,000 people in recent weeks, he said: “There is no question of them being revoked, no question whatsoever.

“I am happy to reassure anyone who is worried about that that the medical cards that were withdrawn and given back will not now be revoked,” he insisted.

Varadkar also said that an expert medical panel will have a “very difficult job” and are going to need “remarkable wisdom” to carry out a study of what criteria will apply to granting medical cards based on medical need

“No decisions will be made until they make their report and certainly no promises or commitments could possibly be made until they produce their report.”

The panel, made up of doctors and patient groups, is to make recommendations in the autumn setting out the conditions and criteria to be used in deciding who should be automatically entitled to a full medical card.

This follows a change in government policy in May when the controversial review of discretionary medical cards was stopped and the coalition announced plans to grant cards on the basis of medical need for the first time.

Varadkar has indicated such plans could be troublesome, but insisted earlier today that he will consider the proposals of the expert group if they are “fair and affordable”.

He said: “You would need to have the wisdom of Solomon to decide which illnesses should entitle you automatically to medical cards and which ones should not but if the Expert Panel can come up with proposals that are fair and affordable I’ll consider them in depth.”

Also speaking at the MacGill Summer School today, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that the government should fully reinstate the discretionary medical card system as it had worked effectively since its inception in the 1970s.

First published 10.41am 

Read: Parents of sick children angry over Varadkar’s comments about medical cards

FF: Your position on medical cards is incoherent … Taoiseach: No it isn’t

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Hugh O'Connell

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