The Government has narrowly defeated a Fine Gael motion call for the restoration of the automatic medical-card entitlement for people over the age of 70.
The coalition partners have faced widespread criticism from the Opposition and the elderly over the decision to end the entitlement in an effort to save €100m.
Fianna Fáil TD Joe Behan quit the party in protest at the move, while Independent TD Finian McGrath also withdrew his support for the Government.
However, Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae voted against the Fine Gael motion last night, helping the Government defeat it by 81 votes to 74.
Several Government TDs apologised for the handling of the fiasco during the debate, but they all voted in favour of the move to remove the automatic medical-card entitlement from the wealthiest 5% of over-70s.
Opposition TDs accused them of being out of touch with the people.