Almost two thirds of people with arthritis have had their discretionary medical cards taken away or placed under review, it has been claimed. Almost three quarters of parents who have children with juvenile arthritis have also had discretionary cards taken away or placed under review.
Arthritis Ireland chief executive John Church described the situation as inhumane.
He said it was particularly tough for parents whose children were waiting more than 18 months to see a rheumatologist, despite guidelines recommending a maximum six-week wait.
The charity surveyed 1,200 people with arthritis over the weekend and urged the Government to keep its pre-election promise to resolve what it described as a scandalous situation.
It found that 60% of those surveyed had discretionary medical cards taken away or placed under review.
In almost seven out of 10 cases, the cards had been removed or placed under review in the last six months.
Almost one in four said they have or had a discretionary medical card.
Arthritis Ireland called on the HSE to ensure arthritis patients on expensive treatments such as hi-tech biologic therapies are given medical cards without delay.
It said the situation was adding to the distress and financial pressure of people living day to day with severe pain.
Some of the people who responded to the survey said they had not been able to pay for their medication.
One person who is undergoing another knee replacement next month, said: “I am so worried about the operation, I should not have this stress as well.”
Another was afraid of becoming completely disabled as a result of not getting the necessary treatment.
Meanwhile, the HSE said it does not require proof of life-long conditions when a medical card falls due for renewal. It said that requests for up-to-date information from applicants appears to be misconstrued.
It had reviewed its written correspondence and recordings and was satisfied that where medical information was sought, it was done appropriately and within the parameters of the scheme.
However, where an individual was over the income threshold and discretion was being applied, an updated medical report needed to be provided.
“This is not to confirm that an individual continues to have a life-long condition, rather it is designed to provide an update on medical treatment underway, which may result in costs for the family,” the HSE stated.
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