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FF: Your position on medical cards is incoherent ... Taoiseach: No it isn't

There are concerns that thousands of people who didn’t respond to the HSE will now be left without a medical card.

THE TAOISEACH CAME under pressure for the second day in a row in the Dáil this afternoon over the Government’s handling of medical cards, as he repeatedly rejected claims that the coalition’s current position on the issue is “inconsistent and incoherent”.

It was confirmed yesterday that over 15,000 people who lost discretionary cards after an eligibility review are to have them returned, following a decision taken at a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning.

However, concerns have been raised that thousands of people who did not engage, or did not engage fully with that review process will be left without a card, in spite of yesterday’s announcement.

At Leader’s Questions today, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also questioned Enda Kenny on why no refunds were being considered for people who may have been hit with substantial medical costs while without a card.

Micheál Martin

Responding, the Taoiseach once again apologised for the undue stress caused by the review of the cards, which the Government conceded yesterday had “produced unintended consequences”.

He stressed a number of times that €13 million was being spent to restore the cards to the 15,000 or so people in question, adding that he had been told by the HSE today that he expected letters to be sent out confirming the reinstatements within the next four weeks.

“Those who were unable to respond, those circumstances have to be taken into account by the HSE,” the Taoiseach said.

Enda Kenny

Referring to comments by Health Minister James Reilly yesterday ruling out compensation for those who lost cards, Kenny said “the Minister was clear yesterday about the issue”.

And rejecting Martin’s contention that the Government’s plan for how cards would be allocated in future was incoherent, he made reference to the panel of medical experts set up to examine the issue, and said “1,000 submissions” had been received by it already. (The panel, set up earlier this month in reaction to the medical card controversy, is due to make its recommendations to the HSE by September).

On the question of how new cases are being dealt with at the moment, Kenny said:

The right of the Director for the HSE to have the discretion to allocate cards on the mercy principle applies, as it does for a doctor to say this person — child or adult — needs an emergency card to deal with their person circumstance.

Willie O’Dea and Micheál Martin. They weren’t impressed by the Taoiseach’s response.

Responding to a question from Sinn Féin’s Caoimhin Ó Caolain, the Taoiseach said the €13 million figure agreed by Cabinet yesterday was coming from elsewhere in the Government budget, and would not result in funds being diverted from elsewhere in the health service.

He insisted the eligibility review was “not a smokescreen” and said it had been designed “to have an assessment that was fair to everybody”.

Read: Over 15,000 people are being given back their medical cards

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

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Daragh Brophy

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