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“There has been no change in policy in relation to medical cards” – James Reilly

The Minster for Health also said that it has never been the case that having a particular illness guarantees access to a medical card

Image: Oireachtas/ Screengrab

Updated 11pm

MINISTER FOR HEALTH James Reilly said earlier today that there has been no change in policy in relation to medical cards in this country.

Reilly said he would like to “reject out of hand” the suggestion that the Government has been specifically targeted medical card holders.

He told the Oireachtas Health Committee this morning that the income saving measures in relation to medical cards will focus on ensuring that those who are entitled to a medical card are able to avail of one while who are not are not:

I want to assure people that there has been no change in policy but what there has been is probity and members of this committee know full well that there will be a public accounts inquiring about people who have medical cards who shouldn’t have them.

The minister told the members present that  it has never been the case that having a particular illness guarantees access to a medical card. “There is not , and nor has there ever been an automatic entitlement to a medical card on a the basis of a specific illness. That is the reality of the 1970s act,” he said.

The provision of medical cards are made entirely on the basis of income, he said, and there is no legal basis for the HSE to provide one on the basis of being diagnosed with cancer or another condition.

This point was reiterated by director general of the HSE Tony O’Brien who was also speaking before the committee.

Free GP care

The minister said that, as a result of the extension of free GP care to children under five, 49 per cent of the Irish population will now have access to to free GP care. This he said is an increase of the 43 per cent which pertained in March 2011 which he says was in itself the highest proportion that has ever been in place.

Reilly said that the long term intention of increasing GP care is to reduce the burden on hospitals which he said was the most expensive part of the health system.

- First published 11.48am

Read: Howlin confident of reaching €113m savings on medical cards >

Read: ‘What did older people ever do to you?’: Taoiseach quizzed over Budget 2014 >

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Rónán Duffy

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