Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (756)

Heather Humphreys

Question:

756. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health if he will consider extending the long-term illness scheme in order that it would also cover GP visits; his views on the possible introduction of a third-tier medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22405/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Persons suffering from prescribed conditions can get free drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances for the treatment of that condition under the Long Term Illness Scheme.

Under the Drug Payment Scheme, no individual or family pays more than €144 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of GP consultations.

Minister Reilly and I recognise the difficulties currently faced by those who are considered ineligible for a medical card. To this end, at Minister Reilly's request, the HSE is currently examining how individuals, who are not entitled to a medical card, could still receive services that meet their needs. This examination relates to all of the services and supports provided by the HSE and with regard to as much flexibility as is available at a local level.

In addition, additional information will be provided and local information points will be established at major health centres around the country, where members of the public can obtain comprehensive information and support in accessing the full range of supports from the Health Services. The objective is to maximise the supports available for patients and families.

Appropriate notice is also being considered as part of this review for existing medical card holders who may no longer be eligible on renewal - but where serious medical conditions or profound disability continues to exist in the household.

The clear intention is to maximise the supports that can be provided in each case to the fullest extent possible. The HSE is seeking to find the best way to achieve this in order to ensure families will receive the support they need.

I look forward to seeing these proposals.