Dáil Éireann - Volume 680 - 23 April, 2009
Written Answers. - Medical Cards.
Deputy Charlie O’Connor Deputy Charlie O’Connor
Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will seek assurances from the Health Service Executive that the public will continue to have direct access to medical card services at the Mary Mercer Health Centre, Kiltalown Village, Tallaght, Dublin 24; if her attention has been drawn to the importance of such a service in the third largest population centre here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16043/09]
Deputy Mary Harney Deputy Mary Harney
Deputy Mary Harney: Under the Health Service Executive’s 2009 Service Plan it has been agreed that the processing of medical card applications will be centralised and will transfer to the Executive’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service in Dublin. The change is being implemented on a phased basis and is designed to deliver a better and more cost effective service.
Under the new arrangements, the HSE will be aiming for a turnaround time of 15 days or less for all medical card applications. Emergency applications will be dealt with immediately with a card issuing within 24 hours. There will be no affect on the assessment of people whose income exceeds the income guidelines but have a case to be considered on medical or hardship grounds.
Local Health Offices will continue to provide advice and necessary supports to people applying for medical cards. They will also deal with queries of a general nature about the medical card scheme and, along with the HSE National Helpline (1850 24 1850), will handle enquiries from clients in respect of their medical card entitlements.
The new arrangements will also deliver significant efficiencies by making greater use of shared services for both internal administration and direct service delivery.
This is a good example of the type of innovation signalled in the Transforming Public Services Programme announced by the Taoiseach last November. It demonstrates how the HSE can deliver improved services within the more limited resources available in a way which meets the needs of citizens in a modern society.
Deputy David Stanton Deputy David Stanton
Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the way means testing is to be carried out on the means of persons over 70 years with reference to the entitlement to have a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16054/09]
Deputy Mary Harney Deputy Mary Harney
Deputy Mary Harney: Under the Health Act 2008, automatic entitlement to a medical card for persons aged 70 or over ceased on 31st December 2008, and with effect from 1st January 2009, the income thresholds for entitlement to a medical card for those aged 70 or over is €700 (gross) per week (€36,500 per year) for a single person and €1,400 (gross) per week (€73,000 per year) for a couple.
Any savings and similar investments up to €36,000 (single)/€72,000 (couple) will be disregarded when assessing means and only interest from savings or similar investments above  these figures will be considered as income. The relevant portion of savings and similar investments will be assessed on the income calculated at a notional interest rate (currently 5%), based on the prevailing interest rates at the time of application. The Health Service Executive’s (HSE) Central Application Unit will review the notional rate on a quarterly basis.
Alternatively, where an applicant wishes to have the actual interest from savings/investments considered, then the HSE will apply this approach and use the most beneficial option in favour of the applicant, subject to submission of the appropriate certificates from the relevant institutions. In the case of “longer term” investment accounts, where the interest is only applied at the end of a fixed period, if the applicant so wishes, the HSE will only take account of the interest earned on the date the investment matures. Any calculation of interest is inclusive of Deposit Interest Retention Tax.
Dáil Éireann 680 Written Answers. Medical Cards.