Reilly: Medical card review not a change in policy
on 17/10/2013 13:12:38
The Minister has been unable to explain how many people stand to lose their card as the Government ramps up its scrutiny of eligibility in a bid to save €113m.
"People who are entitled to their medical card have nothing to fear," he insisted.
Dr Reilly said official research had shown there was currently no equity in the criteria applied to people across the country - saying someone in one area could get a medical card while a person with the same criteria in another could not.
He said there would be no change in policy, people would simply have to reply to a letter sent by the HSE outlining their eligibility.
He said eligibility for a medical card is based on a person's finances.
"The medical card scheme never operated on the basis of a medical condition or an illness. It operates on the basis of undue financial hardship," he said.
Dr Reilly said the aim of saving €113m from so-called medical card probity was based on research given to his department.
The HSE says almost two million people are covered either by a medical card or a GP visit card - 43% of the population.
It says that at October 1, 52,733 medical cards and 22,115 GP visit cards were issued where a patient was above the income threshold.
"The assessment guidelines used in respect of cards issued in the case of an assessment of undue hardship for otherwise ineligible recipients have not been altered by the HSE since 2009," HSE director general Tony O'Brien said.
He added: "I and my colleagues are as committed to ensuring that all those legally entitled to medical or GP visit cards are able to avail of them as we are to fulfilling our absolute obligations to ensure that those who are not entitled neither receive or retain them."
Dr Reilly admitted he is worried about achieving the savings outlined in the health budget, which total €666m.
"I am, frankly speaking, concerned around what can be achieved here and I'm concerned about what can be achieved around Haddington Road," he said.
"And that's why I asked for the Taoiseach's department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to be involved in assessing and validating these figures, and also the impact they will have on the service."
Dr Reilly insisted all the figures outlined by his department in the Budget on Tuesday were "real".
"I can tell you there is no black hole now," he said.
"We know where all the money is, where it is spent, and where it is going and how much we need."