Older people’s medical cards ‘unfairly axed’

Older people had lost their medical cards in the past year without a proper financial assessment, a patients’ advocate claimed.

Stephen McMahon said the “untimely and unexpected” removal of medical cards had caused enormous stress, not only to the patients, but to families.

“It was clearly a decision that was made without a proper financial assessment,” the chairman of the Irish Patients’ Association said yesterday.

Some elderly people who lost their medical card had special dietary needs, he noted.

Calling for fairness and transparency, Mr McMahon said the circumstances of the country’s elderly citizens must be taken fully into account before they lose their entitlements.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil up to 35,000 people over the age of 70 were losing their medical cards because of the income threshold cut introduced in the last budget.

Some very old and very sick people were losing their cards. In the past such elderly people with a very serious condition would have got a medical card but this was not the case now, Mr Martin said.

TDs have been receiving representations from the relatives of 80-year-olds and 90-year-olds losing their medical cards because of the cuts, he said.

Under recently revised medical card eligibility income limits, people over 70 are entitled to a medical card if their gross income does not exceed €500 a week for a single person, or €900 for a couple.

They are entitled to a free GP-visit card if their income is over €500 but less than €700 for a single person and €1,400 for a couple.

Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation responded angrily to the Government’s plan to introduce free GP care to people over the age of 70.

There are around 50,000 people who do not qualify for a medical card and who would benefit from the measure, costing around €7.5m. But the IMO claimed government policy in relation to GP services was in disarray.

Chair of the IMO’s GP committee, Dr Ray Walley said they had been involved in talks with the HSE and the Department of Health over the plan to extend free GP care to children under the age of six when they had heard the announcement.

During a radio interview yesterday, Dr Walley said he was disappointed there had not been a collaborative approach to the provision of care to those who most needed it.

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