asked the Minister for Health the criteria used to determine eligibility for medical cards, and by whom these criteria are established.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Medical Card Eligibility.
The legal requirement for eligibility for medical cards, as set down in section 45 of the Health Act, 1970, is that the persons concerned are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.
In order to achieve uniformity in the application of this criterion, income guidelines have been drawn up by the chief executive officers of the health boards. These guidelines are reviewed annually and those which are now current became effective from 1 January 1980.
Is it not the situation that the guidelines are prepared in consultation with the Minister? Will the Minister give an indication as to whether his Department are prepared to revert to the traditional guidelines which were that an operative employed by the local authorities was the baseline for medical card purposes?
The guidelines are prepared by the chief executive officers of the health boards and they are obviously prepared in consultation with members of the staff of the Department. Nonetheless, it has been the practice to allow the chief executive officers to prepare the guidelines and this has been found to be quite satisfactory in general throughout the health board areas. They take into consideration variations in the consumer price index. If the Deputy has any changes he would like to propose I would be prepared to take them up with the chief executive officers of the health boards.
Question No. 21. We have a lot of questions.
Is it not the situation that every county council worker who traditionally enjoyed a medical card is now deprived of that service?
The Deputy is now making a statement.
I am asking if that is not the situation.
I do not believe that that is the situation. The allowance for a married couple from 1 January this year was £47 per week, the allowance per child is £5, the allowance for other dependants is £6.50 per dependant and allowances for outgoings on the house in excess of £5 per week are taken into consideration. Other allowances include reasonable expenses necessarily incurred in travelling to work. Other circumstances may be taken into account by the chief executive officer in particular cases. The chief executive officers are doing this job quite satisfactorily.
Question No. 21.
This is a very important area. Is it not now the situation that county council workers who receive the lowest level of payment are having medical cards whipped from them by the new limit. About £45 for a couple, £5 for a child and £6.50 for dependants still does not, even in this unfortunate economy, amount to the equivalent of a county council worker's weekly wage.
The Deputy is now making a statement. Question No. 21, please.
The percentage of the population in receipt of medical cards is still of the same order.
The percentage has fallen.
No question was asked about the percentage.
The Minister has made a statement and he ought to be asked to give the percentage figures over the last three years.
They are not in the brief but if the Deputy puts down a question I will certainly give the figures.
The Chair has called the next question.