Ministers were alert to independent concerns

GOVERNMENT ministers were in regular discussions with their two supporting independent TDs before their partial climbdown on the medical card policy.

Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae said their concerns about means-testing have been met because older people will have to voluntarily disclose if they are above the income threshold for the medical card.

Mr Lowry has asked the Taoiseach for assurances that there will not be any further changes to the income threshold after the scheme is introduced on January 1.

The North Tipperary deputy said: “I have dug my heels in on the issue over the week. I felt obliged to use my influence to address the concerns of people.”

Mr Healy-Rae, Kerry South, gave a guarded welcome claiming there was no pensioner in Kerry earning over the new €36,500 threshold.

“I’d say I was totally opposed to it the way it was, and I’d be voting against it the way it was. I don’t know if I’ll vote for it because I’ll consult with Michael Lowry and see what the figures are,” he said.

Dublin North Central deputy Finian McGrath, who withdrew support on Monday, yesterday claimed the Taoiseach was split between Health Minister Mary Harney, and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan on the medical card issue.

“Brian Lenihan, would have gone the whole hog in relation to universal healthcare, but that’s my personal opinion,” he told Newstalk Radio.

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