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Medical Card Reviews

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 18 April 2019

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Ceisteanna (168)

Martin Heydon


168. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Health if he has considered a review of medical card income limits to take account of recent annual increases in pensions which may in some cases bring pensioners over the income limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18133/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) (No. 2) Act 2013, when a person attains the age of 70, the medical card income limits are €500 gross income per week for a single person and €900 gross income per week for a couple. Any revision of these medical card income thresholds requires primary legislation. 

Persons aged 70 or older, who are assessed as ineligible under the gross income thresholds, may also have their eligibility assessed under the means-tested medical card scheme if they so wish, for example in the event that they face particularly high expenses, e.g. nursing home or medication costs. This scheme is open to all persons, irrespective of their age and assessment is based on net income and assessable outgoing expenses. The general scheme, although having lower income thresholds, provides for income disregards and relevant outgoings to be taken into account in the assessment process.

Furthermore, persons, including those aged over 70 years, may be deemed eligible for a medical card on a discretionary basis, if they are judged to face undue hardship in arranging GP services as a result of medical or social circumstances. In addition, from August 2015, all persons aged 70 or older qualify for a GP Visit Card, regardless of income.

Budget 2019 provided for increases in a number of social welfare payments which came into effect in March 2019. It would be the Government's intention that people's ability to qualify for a medical card would not be adversely affected by this increase. I have asked the HSE to monitor the situation and to advise me if it considers that changes in the rates of social welfare payments may affect people's ability to qualify for a medical card. 

There are no proposals at present to amend the current income limits for the granting of eligibility for medical cards for persons aged 70 and over. However, it should be noted that the gross income limits are reviewed annually and considered in the context of the budget.