Medical card means testing may be scrapped

Financial means tests carried out on the families of seriously ill children seeking medical cards could be scrapped under plans being discussed by Government.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar is examining the move after it was put to him by the independent expert group of patients and doctors set up to resolve card access problems in recent days.

Under the proposed measures, access to the State support could soon be linked to the domiciliary care allowance – a State support which does not require means testing.

This is because the expert group is struggling to find a plausible way to refocus the existing system to take into account the 10 recommendations from last November’s Keane report, which said “burden of disease” issues must be paramount in any future decisions.

Unlike the medical card system – which includes a financial means test that has been repeatedly blamed for blocking people from accessing the help – the DCA is based entirely on a child’s specific disability rather than their family’s income.

Approximately 26,000 seriously ill children under the age of 16 are currently in receipt of the DCA, 9,000 of whom do not currently hold a medical card.

While the move has yet to be agreed, a spokesperson for Mr Varadkar told the Irish Examiner the issue is under “active consideration”. He said while the minister “would like to take this step” as it will “provide a degree of security to a lot of families”, it still requires legal advice and Government approval.

Our Children’s Health member Peter Fitzpatrick, who is on the expert panel, said last night the move “would remove many of the difficulties parents have with the medical card application process”.

“Linking the medical card to the DCA will for the first time remove the parent’s means from the application process and appropriately shift the focus to the child’s medical need. Crucially it will significantly reduce if not eliminate the likelihood any child with a very serious medical condition is refused in the future,” he said.

The Jack and Jill Foundation also backed the plan as it will be welcomed “with open arms” by families.

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