Legislation change may be needed over medical cards

The Government may have to amend 2001 legislation to implement its u-turn on medical cards for over-70s, the Dáil heard today.

The dramatic reversal of the controversial Budget measure means only single pensioners with an income of €36,500 a year and couples with earnings of €73,000 will pay for healthcare.

The revised proposals will see the wealthiest 5% of that age group losing their right to free treatment.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore today suggested in the Dáil that important changes to existing legislation may be needed to push through the new adjustments.

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said that ministers routinely consulted the Attorney General on all legal aspects of legislation.

“The Minister for Health and Children has been advised by the Attorney General in the context of the legislative framework in which she will introduce this new scheme,” she told the Dáil.

Mr Gilmore said that it was perfectly clear that repealing the Act of 2001 did not remove the legal entitlement to hold a medical card of those who have already reached the age of 70.

He asked: “Is it the intention to bring in legislation that expressly provides for taking back the medical card from those who hold them?

“We are entitled to know what the Government intends, if the Government knows what it intends to do. We need clarity on the three simple questions I asked.”

The Labour leader asked if Health Minister Mary Harney had the power to change the income limits and if she could index-link the income limits?

“Is there a legal basis for taking back the entitlement from those who got the entitlement under the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act?” he asked.

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