Written Answers. - Medical Card.

John Browne

Ceist:

207 Mr. Browne (Wexford) asked the Minister for Health the reason a medical card was refused to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford in spite of the fact that both husband and wife are in ill health, are attending hospital and have a lot of medical expenses; and if he will have arrangements made to have the case reviewed urgently. [16386/96]

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. Medical cards may also be awarded to individual family members.

I have had inquiries made of the South-Eastern Health Board concerning this case and have been informed that the application was unsuccessful as the person's income was well above the standard income guidelines normally used to assist in determining eligibility. I have been assured that the health board has considered the application on the basis of hardship and has recently decided that the applicant would not be entitled to a medical card on this basis.

Non-medical card holders are of course entitled to out-patient services free of charge and all in-patient public hospital services are subject only to modest statutory charges. They are also covered by a number of schemes which provide assistance towards the cost of medication. Under the long-term illness scheme persons suffering from a number of conditions can obtain without charge the drugs and medicines for the treatment of that condition. Persons who do not qualify for the long-term illness scheme and who are certified as having a long-term medical condition with a regular and ongoing requirement of prescribed drugs and medicines do not have to pay more than £32 in any month at the pharmacy counter under the drug cost subsidisation scheme. Under the drugs refund scheme persons are entitled to a refund of expenditure (including that of dependants) over £90 per calendar quarter on prescribed drugs and medicines.
Every person who is in genuine need of a medical card must, of course, receive one and I am satisfied that health boards give sympathetic consideration to applications when the circumstances warrant it.