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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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end of life care

Terminally ill persons with two-year prognosis will be eligible for a medical card

The scheme was approved by Cabinet today .

A SCHEME IS to be introduced that will provide a medical card to persons who are terminally ill and have a prognosis of up to 24 months.

The scheme was approved by Cabinet today and will be in place for an interim period of 12 months before legislation is introduced to make it permanent. 

Medical cards are usually means tested but this does not apply to terminally ill persons who have a prognosis of less than 12 months. There are currently some 1,800 medical cards granted on this ‘end of life’ criteria.

The new scheme essentially doubles that criteria to 24 months and was a commitment made under the Programme for Government. 

The new scheme will cover diagnoses across a range of specialties including neurology, cardiology, respiratory and oncology. 

In a statement this evening, Dr Angie Brown of the Irish Heart Foundation said that the move will “come as a relief and comfort to many people”. 

“It is very welcome news that people who are terminal and have two years or less to live will not have to worry about being able to afford vital medicines and care, on top of the burden of living with a terminal condition,” she said. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said today that the change would provide “certainty and reassurance” to those dealing with such a prognosis. 

“A terminal diagnosis is undoubtedly devastating. The provision of a medical card can provide much needed certainty and reassurance for individuals and their families during such a difficult time,” he said. 

The minister also said he is eager than the change would be in place “as quickly as possible”

“With government approval secured today, I intend to direct the HSE to put in place arrangements to enable all those with a prognosis of up to 24 months to be eligible for a medical card,” he said. 

Opposition politicians have welcomed the change with Labour’s Alan Kelly TD saying it was “overdue”. He also praised those who had campaigned for it: 

I am delighted today that the vocal campaign by John Wall to secure medical cards for those with a terminal illness has finally been successful. This is a campaign I have worked with John on for some time, so I am personally relieved that his advocacy and work have paid off. I have been constantly amazed at the tenacity, bravery and commitment shown by John over the last two years and the dedication he brought to this campaign. 

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane also praised Wall’s efforts and those of the Irish Cancer Society. 

“The legislation to underpin further reform of medical cards needs to be brought forward very quickly,” he said.

“All parties agree that healthcare should be free at the point of use. Delivering an Irish National Health Service is a long-standing policy of Sinn Féin. Free access to primary and community care needs to be a focus for reform, and this requires investment, including in public general practice.”

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