Dáil Éireann - Volume 608 - 20 October, 2005
Written Answers - Medical Cards.
Mr. Broughan Mr. Broughan
 80. Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report to Dáil Éireann on her current and future plans for medical cards and the income limits which apply. [29937/05]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Ms Harney: Under the Health Act 2004, since 1 January 2005 statutory responsibility for the determination of eligibility of applicants to medical cards is a matter for the Health Service Executive.
In November 2004 I announced that from 1 January 2005, income guidelines to be used for assessments of full eligibility to medical cards would be increased by 7.5% with the objective of issuing an additional 30,000 medical cards. At that time, I also announced my intention to introduce 200,000 GP visit cards which would allow the holders of these cards to receive general practitioner services free of charge.
In June, it was apparent that the effect of rising income in our successful economy meant that the target of 30,000 additional medical cards was not going to be achieved. At this time I simplified the means test for both medical cards and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant’s and spouse’s income after income tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. This is much fairer to applicants.
On 13 October 2005, I announced that the income guidelines for both medical cards and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%. This means the income guidelines are now 29% higher than this time last year.
Following the recent clarification from the Labour Relations Commission there is now full agreement with the parties to proceed with the processing of applications for GP visit cards. This is now under way. The GP visit card is an initiative which has provided for a graduated level of benefit. By providing GP visit medical cards it is possible, for a given amount of funding, to benefit four times as many people as would be possible with the traditional medical card. I am in favour of the concept of graduated benefits. It means that families on low to moderate incomes, depending on their outgoings, will not be afraid to go to the doctor because of the costs involved.
My Department and the HSE will continue to monitor the number of full medical cards and GP visit cards issued. The commitment in the programme for Government to extend eligibility for medical cards will be kept under review in the light of other competing service priorities, available resources and the graduated benefits approach which I introduced with the GP visit card. The current basic guidelines to be used in the assessment of applications for both categories of medical card are shown in the following table.
Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 77.
Dáil Éireann 608 Written Answers Medical Cards.