Limerick East): Under the Health Act, 1970, medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board are unable, without undue hardship, to provide general practitioner services for themselves and their dependants.
Income guidelines are drawn up by the chief executive officers to assist in the determination of a person's eligibility and these guidelines are revised annually in line with the consumer price index. However, these guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, that person may still be awarded a medical card if the chief executive officer considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this.
Notwithstanding this provision, the chief executive officers of the health boards have agreed to implement a number of measures to assist medical card holders who take up employment. With regard to community employment, persons who have held the medical card while on the Live Register are allowed to retain the medical card for a period of two years after securing a placement on community employment. The chief executive officers have also agreed that, in considering medical card applications weekly payments under community employment scheme are excluded in assessing an applicant's income.
The Government is fully committed to tackling long-term unemployment and to addressing any obstacles which prevent the long-term unemployed from taking up employment. I am also satisfied that the arrangements agreed with the chief executive officers shows the good faith of the health services in this regard.