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Your recent article (Nov 11), ‘Parents rally over withdrawal of vital Supports,’ said the HSE had insisted that there had been “no alteration in the guidelines” for the allocation of medical cards.
There has been confusion over this matter and, for the sake of accuracy, I wish to clarify.
There has been no change to policy, regarding the issuing of medical cards, since 1970/1971. As the policy stands, a person can access general practitioner and surgical services without undue hardship.
This is underpinned by statute, through the Health Act of 1970.
Following various Budget decisions by governments since 2009, there have been amendments to the guidelines (which provide guidance to the HSE on how it should administer the policy).
These include a reduction in the income thresholds for over-70s, the disallowing of the first €50 of travel-to-work costs, and the servicing of loans for home improvements.
What has changed significantly is how the medical card system is administered.
Prior to 2011, medical cards were assessed in more than 100 locations — a consistent assessment could not be guaranteed.
In 2011, the process was centralised to ensure that the guidelines for eligibility were being applied consistently, objectively, and equitably throughout the country.
The granting of a medical card, on a discretionary basis, remains a regular and routine aspect of the assessment, which is now undertaken in conjunction with a medical officer’s assessment, where the professional opinion of the applicant’s GP or consultant is often sought. Anybody who qualifies, as per the current guidelines, will receive, or continue to hold, a medical card. Discretion will continue to be applied fairly, and compassionately, for those people whose incomes exceed the prescribed thresholds.
For more information on medical cards, I would urge people to log on to Wwww.hse.ie/medicalcard. Or, phone the lo-call number, 1890 252 919.
National Director for Communications, HSE
Dr Steevens’ Hospital
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