Call to end HSE means test powers

The HSE should no longer have responsibility for overseeing medical card means tests, the final version of the Government’s report into the crisis-hit service is set to claim.

Fresh details of the document emerged last night as a spokesperson for Health Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed the report will go before the Cabinet’s health sub-committee on Monday — the second last step before publication.

Despite a year of pressure to overhaul the medical card system, at the start of this month it emerged the 23-strong independent expert panel which drew up the report will recommend personal finances should remain the key decider in card applications.

The report summary leaked at the time said this is because there is no clear “ethical” way to collate a list of set conditions for which the help should be provided, as promised by the Government in June in response to crumbling support in the local and European elections.

However, further details of the final document emerged last night, providing more clarity on what this is likely to entail.

While stressing they believe the system works despite the problems, the report’s authors are understood to have said means testing responsibility should be taken away from the HSE, with a third party brought in to oversee the controversial issue.

An increased focus on “medical need” should also be included, they said.

This is distinct from a list of conditions as it would be a catch-all option for people with issues caused by less serious or well-known illnesses and would ensure people with terminal conditions do not have to reapply for the help.

While the report will not be published until the middle of November, it will go to the cabinet’s health sub-committee on Monday.

The group — which consists of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly and junior health minister Kathleen Lynch — is expected to sign-off on the plan at this point. The step will mean the document will go before the full cabinet for approval, before publication next month.

Deal delays

Elderly people have to “find €13,000” for nursing home care because of 15-week Fair Deal scheme delays.

Independent TD Denis Naughten made the claim after Health Minister Leo Varadkar insisted the policy has not run out of money.

Due to a cap on how many people the system can help, there are 2,100 people on Fair Deal waiting lists — causing heartache and creating hospital bed blockages.

Mr Varadkar said he may use some of a €25m fund for next year to tackle waiting lists, adding the problem is under control. However, elderly group Alone said this will delay the issue until next year.

“In the interim, the older person has to find funds to meet a €13,000 bill before the Fair Deal support kicks in,” said Mr Naughten.


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