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Written Answers. - Medical Cards.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 352. Mr. Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  if he will review the decision of health boards, including the Western Health Board, to remove medical cards from elderly people reviewing the eligibility for such cards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23472/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin As the Deputy is aware, entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on means. Under the Health Act, 1970 determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship.

Income guidelines are drawn up by the chief executive officers to assist in the determination of a person's eligibility and these are revised annually in line with the consumer price index. However, the guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the chief executive officer considers that his or her medical needs or other circumstances would justify this.

The health strategy includes a number of initiatives to clarify and expand the existing arrangements for eligibility for health services, including recommendations arising from the review of the medical card scheme carried out by the health board chief executive officers under the PPF which include streamlining applications and improving the standardisation of the medical card applications process to ensure better fairness and transparency; providing clearer information to people about how and where to apply for medical cards; and proactively seeking out those who should have medical cards to ensure they have access to the services that are available.

As the determination of eligibility is a matter for the chief executive officers of each health board, my Department has written to the chief executive officers of the health boards requesting that they look into this matter and reply directly to you.

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