The determination of eligibility of applications for medical card is a matter covered by legislation for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board. Assessment of eligibility is based upon the applicant's income and his or her medical need. In cases of refusal, applicants have the right of appeal and are normally advised of this by their local health board.
Generally, the reduction in recent years in the number of medical cards may be attributed to the increase in the number of people in employment and the improved economic situation nationally. Another factor which affects this area is the review by health boards of medical card databases. Since 2003, this has led to 80,000 inappropriate database entries being removed from these databases. Reasons for deletions included duplicate entries, change of address, cases where the medical card holder is deceased and ineligibility due to changed circumstances.
The Government is fully committed to the extension of medical card coverage as set out in the programme for Government. This will focus on people on low incomes and will give priority to families with children, particularly those with a disability. The timing of the introduction of the extension will be decided having regard to the prevailing budgetary position.