Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Questions (166)

Róisín Shortall


166. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health in respect of the Government decision of 17 June 2014 regarding the return of discretionary medical cards to those who had lost them following review, the basis on which the date of 1 July 2011 was chosen in view of the fact that the centralisation process commenced in 2009; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 383,488 medical card applications and reviews had been completed by the PCRS between January 2009 and mid-2011; and if he will set out the policy regarding the return of medical cards to those holders who lost discretionary medical cards between 2009 and 1 July 2011. [28599/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The current eligibility system for health services, which has been in place since 1970, is based primarily on financial criteria. Therefore, the Government has decided to develop a policy framework for providing eligibility for health services to take account of medical conditions, including new legislation as appropriate and a HSE clinical expert group is to examine the range of conditions that should be considered as part of this process. The group has been asked to make an early report to the Minister for Health in the autumn.

The Government was very concerned about the potential impacts on the health of persons with serious illnesses whose discretionary medical cards and GP visit cards were refused renewals since the centralisation of medical card assessment in 2011. Therefore, in the context of the above eligibility policy development, the Government decided that medical cards and GP visit cards are to be issued to persons with a serious medical condition (or disability) who had the renewal of their discretionary card refused by the HSE, having completed an eligibility review during the period from 1 July 2011 to 31 May 2014.

Under the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) 2009 National Service Plan, it was agreed that the processing of medical card/GP visit card applications & reviews would be centralised and would transfer to the Executive’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin.

The process commenced in January 2009 when the PCRS took over the processing of all medical card applications for persons aged 70 or over. The second phase commenced in September 2009 with the transfer of the case load from two local health offices (LHOs) in Dublin. In 2010, as part of the centralisation project, the HSE introduced a new website, , which enables people anywhere in the country to apply for or renew a medical card through a simple and efficient application process.

The final phase extended PCRS responsibility for processing all medical cards to the remainder of the country. This meant that all new medical card applications and reviews made from 1 July 2011 were processed centrally by the PCRS Office in Finglas, Dublin.

Centralisation delivered a consistent and equitable application of eligibility and service provision and has provided clearer governance and accountability, as well as improved management information. It is in the context of the finalisation of the centralisation project - 1 July 2011 - that the Government decided that the HSE would issue cards to persons, with a serious illness, whose discretionary card was refused renewal in the period from 1 July 2011 to 31 May 2014.