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News / November 28, 2014

Irish medical cards undergo ‘major revamp’

by Guy Hiscott

The HSE is undertaking ‘a major revamp of the system’ under which medical cards are granted and processed.

Health minister Leo Varadkar and minister of state Kathleen Lynch announced the update following recent controversy surrounding the cutting back of discretionary medical cards, according to

Ten actions will be undertaken by the HSE to improve the operation of the medical card system.

The updated system will continue to grant cards through financial means, but is designed to be more conscious of people’s medical needs and individual circumstances.

Ringing in the changes, the health minister said: ‘We have concluded that a financial means-test remains the fairest way to assess eligibility. But we also need an enhanced assessment process that takes into account the burden of an illness or a condition.

‘From now on, wider discretion and greater humanity will be exercised in such cases.’

Some of the reforms being introduced are:

  • An enhanced assessment process, which will take into account the burden of a person’s illness or a condition when applying for a medical card
  • A greater exchange of information between the medical card central assessment office and the local health offices
  • A clinical advisory group is being established by the HSE to develop guidance on assessing applications involving serious medical conditions
  • The default position for medical cards given to people with terminal illnesses is that they will no longer be reviewed
  • The HSE will be empowered to provide people with therapies or appliances if that is what they need, even in the absence of a medical card.

The minister added: ‘The more that I have studied the issue of eligibility for medical cards, the more I have become convinced that the only solution is universal health care.

‘No matter what means-test you apply, whether financial or medical, there will always be anomalies and there will always be people just above the threshold. However, I am convinced that this new system will be fairer and more humane than the one it is replacing.’ establishes that the new measures are based on recommendations from two reports published recently: the report of the Expert Panel on Medical Need for Medical Card Eligibility, and the external review of the Medical Card Process, undertaken by Prospectus and Deloitte.

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