Written Answers. - Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

265 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons income from a higher education maintenance grant is assessed when a health board is determining the eligibility of a medical card applicant; if he will take steps to abolish this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19290/03]

Entitlement to health services is primarily based on means. Under the Health Act 1970 determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically eligible for a medical card. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship.

Persons aged 16 to 25, including students, who are financially dependent on their parents are entitled to a medical card if their parents are medical card holders. Those who are dependants of non-medical card holders are not normally entitled to a medical card except where they have an entitlement under EU regulations or where they are in receipt of a disability allowance. Students who are financially independent of their parents are entitled to apply for a medical card in their own right and are assessed on the same criteria as all other applicants. The educational maintenance grant is provided in order to assist students in meeting their living expenses. The fact that an applicant is in receipt of such a grant is included by the health boards as one of the factors to be taken into account in determining whether the applicant is independent of his or her parents and whether he or she is therefore, eligible for a medical card, together with other factors which may also be relevant in the case of an individual applicant. The decision on whether or not a person is regarded as a dependant or as being financially independent is made by the chief executive officer of the health board on the basis of the circumstances of each individual case.

It is open to all persons to apply to the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.