Under the current provisions of the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for health services in Ireland is based primarily on residency and means. The Act provides that persons, who are unable to arrange GP services for themselves and family without undue hardship, having regard to their overall financial situation, can qualify for a medical card. The HSE can only award medical cards in accordance with the Health Act and, therefore, it must assess the means and reasonable expenditure of the applicant, and his or her spouse or partner. On this basis, statistical data relating to the condition or illness of applicants is not collated under the Medical Card Scheme.
The HSE provides a range of health and personal supports to people with disabilities, including those with Multiple Sclerosis, which incorporate hospital, primary care and community services. Community services and supports for people with disabilities, including those with Multiple Sclerosis, are provided in a variety of community and residential settings in partnership with service users, their families and carers and are provided directly by the HSE or through a range of voluntary service providers.
People with Multiple Sclerosis can benefit from therapy services including Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech & Language Therapy as well as a range of medical interventions. The HSE provides assisted living services, including Personal Assistant services, to support individuals to maximise their capacity to live full and independent lives. People with Multiple Sclerosis may also be eligible for medical / surgical aids & appliances that facilitate and/or maintain mobility and/or functional independence.
MS Ireland receives annual funding from the HSE under Section 39 of the Health Act 2004 towards the provision of a range of services at local and national level to those newly diagnosed, carers, children of parents with Multiple Sclerosis and health professionals. Programmes include physical therapies, symptom management, information / education seminars and a confidential helpline. In 2013, MS Ireland received funding of €2.56 million from the HSE.
The Government is very aware of the public concern in relation to the issue of medical cards. The Cabinet Committee on Health met last week and decided to develop the policy framework governing eligibility in a manner that will also take account of medical conditions in light of its decision. The process will include the development of a new legislative framework, as necessary. The HSE will establish an expert panel to examine the range of conditions that should be brought into consideration. The Department of Health has also been mandated to develop a policy paper on the further roll-out of GP care free at the point of access in the context of the move to universal health insurance.
The Minister for Health will present a Memorandum to Government setting out the next steps.