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Discretionary medical card review process to stop immediately

A panel of experts will he set up by the HSE to assess the conditions that qualify under medical need.

Image: Niall Carson/Press Associtaion

THE REVIEW OF discretionary medical cards is to stop with immediate affect.

The Minister with Responsibility for Primary Care, Alex White made the announcement in the Dáil this afternoon.

He said that a policy framework that will take into account medical need in the case of issuing a discretionary medical card is to be developed.

He said that this process will involve “new legislative frame work as necessary”.

White added that the government were “very aware of the public’s concern” surrounding medical cards.

A panel of experts will be established by the HSE to assess conditions that would qualify on medical need. They will be charged with drawing up conditions that would qualify for a card.

In the interim, the review of discretionary medical cards will cease.

No timeline has been given as to when these changes will take place.

Discretionary medical cards

Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that a set of proposals, that would “fix” the situation where discretionary medical cards are being removed from sick children, were being made to the sub-committee for Health.

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan also made a statement saying that it was completely “unacceptable”.

Discretionary medical cards are awarded to people by the HSE on a discretionary basis. They are given, not on the basis of means, but comes under the term of whether the person is experiencing “undue financial hardship”.

Our Children’s Campaign, which was only set up over a week ago, met with the Taoiseach as he entered Government Buildings today.

Promise

He pledged to them this morning that he would do something about it.

Over 60,000 people have signed their petition.

Today’s announcement is a big win for the group, who say while they welcome the announcement that medical cards would be issued on medical need rather than financial need, they still had a number of questions about the proposals.

Reacting to the announcement Peter Fitzpatrick from Our Children’s Health said:

There are a lot of parents that have had their medical card taken off them and they have not had it for a year, two years, even three years. We would like to know if they will be re-assessing those families.

The group have called on the government to amend the Health Act of 1970 so that any child diagnosed with a serious illness or congenital condition is automatically entitled to a full medical card.

Revoking of medical cards

TheJournal.ie obtained figures from the HSE this week that from January 2013 to April 2014 there was a fall-off of 16,000 discretionary medical cards.

Of those eligible in January 2013, only 78 per cent were eligible 14 months later.

In a statement from the HSE, they said that nearly 42 per cent of the population (1,925,348) people, now have access to free GP care – 39 per cent medical card and 3 per cent GP visit card.

As of 1 April, there are 1,779,103 medical cards of which 49,596 are discretionary.

Earlier this week, the HSE told TheJournal.ie that it has been reviewing medical cards, where there is a long term medical condition, stating that they are carried out in “good faith”.

They said the “intended only to assist the applicant by capturing all relevant information that would give rise to undue financial hardship occurring to provide for medical care”.

The HSE said that one of the elements of the renewal process where cards on discretion are concerned is to request an up to date medical report.

“This is done in good faith, and should not be interpreted as asking a client to reconfirm that he/she still has a permanent or long term chronic condition,” they said.

Speaking about all medical cards, not just discretionary, the Department of Health said there is no “cull” of medical cards.

Read: Taoiseach pledges to solve problem of medical cards being removed from sick children>

Read: Number of discretionary medical cards falls by over 16,000>

Read: ‘They took the medical card from our little girl. She has Cerebral Palsy and may never walk’>

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