Question to the Minister for Health (Dr. Leo Varadkar, TD)
To ask the Minister for Health in order to encourage persons with intellectual disabilities to take up opportunities of rehabilitative employment, if he will consider putting protections in place to ensure that such persons participating in employment will not be affected by additional payments, when it comes to accessing medical cards and other health services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
For WRITTEN ANSWER on Tuesday, 31 March 2015.
Many individuals with intellectual, physical or mental health disabilities gain full-time or part-time employment in the open labour market but may still receive health-funded supports on an intermittent or continuing basis, depending on their individual needs and abilities. The Health Service Executive (HSE) and voluntary disabilityagencies recognise the importance of employment to people with disabilities and are committed to supporting the participation of people with disabilities in the social and economic lives of their communities.
People with intellectual disabilities can avail of a range of community-based services and in many cases have priority in accessing these services. The relevant community services may include Public Health Nurses, Home Helps, Personal Assistance, Psychological Services, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Social Work Services, Physiotherapy, Day Care, Respite Care and Medical/Surgical Aids and Appliances.
In general, community services for people with disabilities are accessed on the basis of need. However they may be subject to specific eligibility criteria, such as a holding a Medical Card or Long Term Illness card, although individuals who do not meet these criteria will be considered by the HSE on a case by case basis.
I appreciate the importance of the medical card to people with disabilities and the value that is placed on it by the person and their family. Under the relevant legislation, eligibility for a medical card is based primarily on residency and means and not on the basis of having a particular medical condition or disease. The Deputy will be aware of the publication of the Report of the Expert Panel on Medical Need for Medical Card Eligibility and the Medical Card Process Reviewin November 2014. A key recommendation of the Expert Panel was that a person’s means should remain the main qualifier for a medical card.
However, the Government recognises that the health service needs to be responsive to the circumstances of people with significant medical needs. Following publication of the two reports in November 2014, the Minister for Health and I announced a series of measures to enhance the operation of the medical card scheme and make it more sensitive to people’s needs, especially where serious illness is involved.
Where deemed appropriate in particular circumstances, the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card even though an applicant’s means exceed the prescribed threshold. Where a person does not qualify for a medical card, they may be provided with a GP Visit Card, appropriate therapy or other community supports or drugs.