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.