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Social Welfare Benefits

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 9 September 2021

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Questions (1059)

Mark Ward


1059. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health if persons on invalidity pensions who reach retirement age can retain the use of medical cards regardless of income (details supplied); and if this will be reviewed for budget 2022 in October as was stated by the Tánaiste in June 2021. [41699/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy is aware, medical card eligibility is primarily based on financial assessment. In accordance with the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for a medical card is determined by the HSE. The HSE assesses each application on a qualifying financial threshold. This is the amount of income that an individual can earn per week and still qualify for a card. It is specific to the individual’s own financial circumstances.  

Persons aged 69 and under are assessed under the general means tested medical card income thresholds which are based on an applicant’s household income after tax, PRSI and the Universal Social Charge (USC) have been deducted. Certain expenses are also taken into account, for example mortgage payments, which helps to increase the amount a person can earn and still qualify for a medical card. 

It is important to note that most social welfare payments (including Invalidity Pension) are means assessed as part of a medical card application once the applicant or spouse/partner has another source of income.  However, where an applicant’s household income is made up solely of social welfare payments, they will be eligible for a medical card.   

Furthermore, income thresholds for a medical card (and GP visit cards) increase for those aged 66 to 69. Given that persons aged 66 will usually transfer to a State Pension at this point, if an applicant or married/co-habiting couple's household income remains comprised of social welfare payments solely they would continue to hold eligibility for a medical card.  Therefore, transferring from an Invalidity Pension to the State Pension does not of itself result in a person losing eligibility for a medical card.  In certain circumstances, an applicant or married/co-habiting couple may transfer to the State Pension but may then also be in receipt of additional income such as a private or occupational pension. This can result in such persons having to undergo a financial assessment to be reassessed to determine their eligibility for a medical card. 

Finally, it should also be noted that the current eligibility framework is kept under regular review throughout the year. In relation to this particular issue as an anomaly does not arise further review of the matter is not considered necessary.