I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 211 together.
The measures outlined below are the changes to the eligibility criteria for medical cards under Budget 2014.
Reducing income thresholds for medical cards for the over 70s
This measure reduces the income thresholds for a single person aged 70 or over to €500 per week and for a couple aged over 70 to €900 a week. A single person aged 70 or over with income up to €700 per week will continue to have access to GP services without charges. A couple aged 70 years or over with income up to €1,400 per week will continue to have access to GP services without charges. It is planned to have that legislation in place by the end of the year/early 2014, with reassessments beginning after the legislation is in place.
Return to work arrangements
Currently, persons who return to work after a period of unemployment retain their medical card for 3 years, regardless of income. Under this measure, a person that has returned to work after a period of unemployment will retain a GP visit card for 3 years, irrespective of their level of income. The measure will not be retrospective in that the HSE will not be seeking refund of costs of any services provided to people who retained a medical card after returning to employment. However, the current circumstances of a person who has returned to work will determine whether they qualify for a medical card or a GP card.
The Department of Health will work further with other Departments with an implementation date early 2014.