Written Answers. - Medical Cards Statistics.

John Bruton

Ceist:

201 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Health if he will outline, (a) the four counties in the State with the highest percentage of population covered by medical cards and (b) the four counties with the lowest percentage; and if his Department use any independent information on regional and county average income levels to validate the uniformity of means testing practice by all health boards.

Statistics on the distribution of medical cards are collated by the General Medical Services (Payments) Board.

The most recent figures available from the board reflect the position as on 31 December, 1991.

The four counties with the highest percentage of population covered by medical cards are: Donegal, 53.39 per cent; Mayo, 52.50 per cent; Longford, 50.03 per cent; Roscommon, 47.89 per cent.

The four counties with the lowest percentage of population covered by medical cards are: Limerick, 33.16 per cent; Cork, 31.87 per cent; Dublin, 28.49 per cent; Kildare, 27.11 per cent.

An analysis of these figures on the basis of information on regional and county average income levels would not serve to validate the uniformity of means-testing practice by health boards since income is not the sole criterion of eligibility for a medical card. A medical card is awarded to any person who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer of the health board, is unable to arrange necessary general practitioner services without undue hardship. Income guidelines are used to assist in determining eligibility but a person whose income exceeds these will still be awarded a medical card if this is warranted due to medical circumstances.
It is, of course, desirable that the assessment procedures should be uniform and consistent in all areas and the chief executive officers have established a review group to this end.