According to the health authority’s spending plan there will be 1,725,767 people with medical cards and 435,785 with GP visit cards at the end of they year.
It is predicting a 50,000 decrease in the number of people with medical cards next year at 1,675,767, but the number of GP visit cards will increase by 49,407 to 485,192.
HSE chief executive Tony O’Brien said there was no plan to change eligibility for medical cards in any way.
Mr O’Brien said the 50,000 decrease in medical card holders was simply an assumption. “Assumptions do not have any impact on eligibility ever,” he said.
The president of the Irish Medical Organisation, Ray Walley, said the “farcical” swapping and changing around of medical card numbers showed the chaotic way in which the service plan was announced.
“There must be a real concern now that we will see more efforts to cull medical card numbers by stealth next year as this Government previously tried to do,” said Dr Walley.
The IMO said not enough funds had been allocated to meet current demand, let alone any increased demand and warned that the cycle of cuts in the country’s health services would continue.
“Far from moving away from the days of austerity this service plan firmly entrenches the idea that further cuts are inevitable,” said Dr Walley.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said there was a “real danger” that acute hospital care would be rationed even more severely in 2016 because of the €100m shortfall.
IHA president Gerard Crotty said it was “glaringly obvious” that acute hospitals had capacity problems but the plan failed to address them.
The National Association of General Practitioners said “minimal money” had again been allocated to primary care.