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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 22 Apr 1997

Vol. 478 No. 1

Written Answers. - Health Benefits.

Cecilia Keaveney


89 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health the benefits which a blind person (details supplied) in County Donegal is entitled to; the reason she was not informed of any such entitlements which she is currently not in receipt of; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10700/97]

Limerick East): The assessment of entitlement to benefits in any individual case is a matter for the health board concerned. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer, North-Western Health Board with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Brian Cowen


90 Mr. Cowen asked the Minister for Health if he will recognise ME as a long-term illness for the purposes of eligibility for medical cards and so on (details supplied). [10718/97]

Limerick East): Under the 1970 Health Act, the determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board. Medical cards are issued to those who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services and prescribed drugs and medicines for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship.

Income guidelines are available to assist chief executive officers in the determination of a person's eligibility. However these guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, that person may still be awarded a medical card if the chief executive officer considers that person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. In view of the discretionary powers of chief executive officers to issue medical cards to those whose income exceeds the guidelines, I do not consider it justifiable to extend automatic entitlement to a medical card to any particular group without any reference to their means.

The long-term illness scheme entitles persons who suffer from certain illnesses to free drugs and medicines which are prescribed in respect of a particular illness. This scheme has not been extended since 1975 and there are no plans to expand the number of illnesses covered by the scheme, having regard to the fact that the needs of individuals with significant or ongoing medical expenses are met by a range of other schemes which provide assistance towards the cost of prescribed drugs and medicines.
The drug cost subsidisation scheme caters for people who do not have a medical card or a long-term illness book and are certified as having a medical condition such as MR with a regular and on-going requirement for prescribed drugs and medicines. Persons who qualify for inclusion in this scheme will not have to spend more than £32 in any month on prescribed medication. Under the drugs refund scheme which covers expenditure by the whole family, any expenditure on prescribed medication above £90 in a calendar quarter is refunded by the health board.
I am satisfied that appropriate and comprehensive support is being provided by the State through the existing range of schemes for people with long-term medical conditions.