Cautious welcome for return of medical cards

Patients, disability groups, and organisations looking after terminally ill children all welcomed the return of medical cards to 15,300 people who lost them since the controversial 2011 cull began — but warned the Government they are closely watching their next steps.

Cautious welcome for return of medical cards

Down Syndrome Ireland is asking that families are compensated for any money they spent on doctors, medication, or medical equipment during the period they were without a medical card. The Irish Patients Association and the Jack and Jill Foundation have asked how the U-turn will affect people whose discretionary medical cards came up for review after May 31.

Yesterday, Health Minister James Reilly announced that 15,300 people with an acute or life-long medical condition, who lost their discretionary medical card, or GP visit card, after an eligibility review between July 1, 2011, and May 31, 2014, are to have them returned. The returned cards will be valid until July 2015, with an extra €13m being provided by the HSE to cover the full-year cost of their return.

Down Syndrome Ireland CEO Pat Clarke said: “The minister is admitting the review was a flawed process so we want to see monies spent because of this flawed process returned and we want clarification on that.”

Mr Clarke also thanked all the families who kept up the campaign to have medical cards restored.

Jack & Jill CEO Jonathan Irwin said the return of the medical cards was “the right decision”. “However,” he said, “we see some immediate gaps, such as what about the new cases being referred to Jack and Jill? Children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions, some of them palliative? Will their passage to their medical card be smoother? Can we assume that if they apply now they will be met with a more positive response?”

He said at least €13m had been wasted by the HSE in the debacle, as this was “the cost” of returning cards.

“This money would not be necessary if there had been better leadership on the whole medical card issue and that same €13m would keep the Jack & Jill Foundation going for nearly five years.” he said. “It also saddens me that we are still means testing for medical cards for children with severe disabilities who should get these cards automatically, in their own name, based on medical need rather than means testing their parents.”

The Irish Patients Association welcomed the move, but said it too had concerns about people who have lost their cards since the review was postponed.

“We also really need to look at the law of unintended consequences when it comes to policy decisions,” said Stephen McMahon. “We need to look at the impact that eligibility thresholds will have on the lives of people who are suddenly just over the cut-off point. We need to risk-assess these decisions.”

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