Discretionary medical cards to be restored

The Government has decided it will return discretionary medical cards taken off those with serious medical conditions over the past three years.

The Cabinet has approved a plan which does not require a change in the law and can see cards returned in a matter of weeks.

A statement from the Department of Health said the Government could not stand over the removal of cards from those with an acute medical condition, or a lifelong condition, including a disability.

The statement said it is anticipated that over 15,000 cards will be restored to people with serious medical conditions as part of this process.

The decision to return cards without changing the law follows intensive negotiations with the Attorney General.

Today's announcement covers cards withdrawn between July 1, 2011, and May 31, 2014. in a statement, the Department of Health said the review of the cards "produced unintended consequences" and that "much anecdotal evidence" revealed that those with a lifelong condition lost their cards.

However, he said that all decisions were made legally, and there would be no refund for medical expenses incurred in the intervening time, saying "there is no basis for a refund" and the Government had no plans to offer one.

The HSE has established an expert panel to consider the "broader issue" on how medical cards should be issued, and what makes an applicant eligible.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, the Minister for Health, James Reilly, said that responsibility for the "unintended consequence" was shared between the last Government, which decided to centralise medical card applications, and the current Government, which implemented it.

The Taoiseach also apologised in the Dáil for the "very many families being severely inconvenienced … [which] really did cause a great deal of stress for people."

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