Medical card means test was considered

A Department of Health proposal to force social welfare recipients to undergo a medical card means test was among money-saving measures considered as controversy raged over a cull that saw seriously ill patients lose their entitlement to a card.

The drastic measure is contained in a submission to the Department of Public Expenditure in July, but was blacked-out in the version of the document that appeared on that department’s website last month.

However the Irish Examiner had access to the redacted version, which also proposed:

-Abolishing the long-term illness (LTI) scheme;

-Introducing means testing for the provision of home care services.

The health department estimated thatthe proposal to extend the medical card means test “irrespective of source of income” could save €140m and that it would “remove an existing exemption” to the standard means test for those on social welfare.

However, it cautioned that the move should not be taken without considering “the potential hardship that could arise from this option”.

The redacted notes in relation to the proposal to abolish the LTI scheme point out that affected patients could have their medication and appliance needs met under the General Medical Scheme or the Drug Payment Scheme and that the “rationale for the LTI Scheme has in effect disappeared”.

However the document notes that the proposal was also raised in the run-up to Budget 2013, but found no favour.

If the LTI scheme was to remain in place, a €25 co-payment should be considered, the department said. A co-payment of €5 for GP visits was also proposed for those in receipt of free GP care.

In relation to home care services, the department said, historically, these services had always been provided free. Charging would require complex legislative change, the department said.

The Department of Health denied that the proposed charges and means test changes were still on the table. In a statement, it said the proposals were formulated in response to a request from the Department of Public Expenditure to outline measures that would reduce expenditure by 5%.

However, given that the Department of Health “secured a modest increase in its allocation as part of Budget 2015” there would be “no need to implement any of the proposals mentioned”, it said.


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