Dáil Éireann - Volume 637 - 26 June, 2007
Written Answers. - Medical Cards.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the changes in medical card income qualification guidelines she proposes to make; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17453/07]
Deputy Mary Harney Deputy Mary Harney
Deputy Mary Harney: Since the beginning of 2005 the medical card assessment guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29%. Other significant changes which I have introduced are that applications are now considered on the basis of income net of tax and PRSI and allowance is made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work. In June 2006, I agreed with the Health Service Executive (HSE) a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those used in respect of medical cards.
In assessing eligibility, the HSE uses national guidelines to assess people’s means, which includes their income, certain allowable outgoings and the effect of other factors which may impact on people’s ability to meet the cost of GP services. Under the assessment arrangements, persons whose sole income is derived from Department of Social and Family Affairs payments or HSE payments, even if these exceed the assessment guidelines, qualify for a medical card.
Since January 2005 to June 2007 an additional 166,591 people have free access to GP services. This figure consists of an additional 98,383 people with a medical card and a further 68,208 people with a GP visit card. I have no immediate plans to change the guidelines used in the assessment process. My Department and the HSE monitor on an ongoing basis the number of medical cards and GP visit cards, and the need for changes to the guidelines is kept under review, having regard to factors such as changes in income levels generally, the nature of typical household outgoings  and also changes to the various social welfare schemes.
Dáil Éireann 637 Written Answers. Medical Cards.