Tuesday, 25th November 2014
- Reforms to the medical card system announced by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, TD
- Medical card system will be more sensitive to the health and financial issues faced by individuals and their families
The reforms introduced today will lead to a fairer, more sensitive medical card system. It will ensure that people with serious illnesses will get access to the care that they need.
This reformed medical card system will still use financial means as its main criteria, however it will show greater flexibility to people with a serious and financially onerous medical condition who would not qualify for a medical card in normal circumstances. Furthermore, people with a serious illness who hold a discretionary card will be reassured to know that they will retain their card up to the introduction of these reforms.
From now on, people with terminal illnesses will no longer face the prospect of having their medical cards reviewed. The HSE have also been mandated to provide people with therapies or appliances if that’s what they need, even in the absence of a medical card.
The medical card scheme had, in the last fifteen years in particular become too beaurocratic and inflexible. I particularly welcome that Minister Varadkar has instructed the HSE to develop a single, integrated process for people to apply for a medical card, a GP visit card, the Long-Term Illness scheme, and the Drugs Payment Scheme. I welcome that access points are being established in health offices around the country to help people to apply for a medical card.
These reforms will help make the system more accessible and understandable to people. Most importantly, it will result in a medical card system which is more sensitive to the health and financial issues faced by individuals and their families.
Ten actions being taken by the HSE to improve the operation of the medical card system, particularly for people with significant medical needs:
- An enhanced assessment process which takes into account the burden of an illness or a condition;
- The greater exchange of information between the medical card central assessment office and the local health offices;
- People with a serious illness who hold a discretionary card will retain their card pending implementation of the actions to improve the operation of the scheme;
- The power of GPs to extend medical cards in difficult circumstances will be strengthened;
- A clinical advisory group is being established by the HSE to develop guidance on assessing applications involving significant medical conditions;
- The default position for medical cards given to people with terminal illnesses is that they will no longer be reviewed;
- The HSE will be empowered to provide people with therapies or appliances if that’s what they need, even in the absence of a medical card;
- The HSE will develop a single, integrated process for people to apply for a medical card, a GP visit card, the Long-Term Illness scheme, and the Drugs Payment Scheme;
- Access points will be established around the country in health offices to support and assist people to make applications;
- The Department and the HSE will consider the best way to make medical aids and appliances available to persons who do not hold a medical card, the provision of services to children with severe disabilities, and to enable people with particular needs to have these met on an individual basis rather than awarding a medical card to all family members.