Dáil Éireann - Volume 519 - 17 May, 2000
Written Answers - Housing Provision.
Mr. J. Mitchell Mr. J. Mitchell
176. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Dublin Corporation and other local authorities are seeking to address the housing crisis by purchasing from senior citizens their homes at market value minus the deduction in turn for housing them in senior citizen accommodation; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that a major difficulty is now arising because of the fear of senior citizens that they will lose their medical cards or other means tested entitlements; if he will amend the medical card guidelines so that the proceeds of the sale of their house in these circumstances be exempted from any means test under his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13882/00]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): My Department is aware that Dublin Corporation operates a financial scheme whereby elderly home owners offer their houses for sale to the corporation at a discounted price based on their age – one third of market value between 60 and 69 years, one quarter between 70 and 79 years and one fifth over 80 years. The vendor is then provided with rented senior citizen accommodation. The scheme allows senior citizens to move to accommodation better suited to their needs. I understand that more than 200 senior citizens have availed of the scheme since 1988.
I have asked the Eastern Regional Health Authority to liaise with Dublin Corporation in relation to this scheme with a view to allaying any fears older people may have regarding its operation.
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 have been 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, these 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/her medical needs or other circumstances would justify this.
Any investments or savings that could or should generate an income are taken into account in assessing income for medical card purposes. Interest from savings is taken into account but after that it is general practice to disallow a modest amount of savings when assessing the amount of savings/assets which could be redeemed as an income.
As the Deputy is aware, the Government identified in its programme An Action Programme for the Millennium the need to review medical card eligibility for the elderly and large families and decided that the income guidelines for entitlement to medical cards for persons aged 70 years or over should be doubled. This improvement, which is being introduced over a three year period, began on 1 March 1999. The income guidelines for those aged 70 to 79 and 80 years and over, which are already higher than the normal guidelines, increased by one third in 1999. The second stage of this process was implemented on 1 March 2000 and the third stage will be implemented in March 2001. In addition, the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness refers to the fact that health board chief executive officers are examining the operation of the medical card scheme and will consult with the social partners by the end of 2000.
Dáil Éireann 519 Written Answers Housing Provision.