Cabinet members defend review of medical card scheme
The Minister for Children has refused to be drawn on the number of people who will lose their medical cards under a new review of the scheme.
As part of €666m worth of health cuts announced in Budget 2014 yesterday, the Government announced it is examining the scheme in order to save €113m.
Minister Frances Fitzgerald says at the end of the process, anyone who should have a card will have one - but has refused to say how many will lose out:
"As Minister Reilly has said again and again, there is no change in policy in regard to the medical card," she said.
"And he is discussing with the Health Service Executive the whole question of discretionary cards, which would appear in recent weeks because of that review, to have created quite a number of situations where he is not satisfied with the approach being taken."
Meanwhile an independent senator and consultant oncologist has raised concern over the scrutiny of the medical card scheme.
John Crowne said a withdrawal of medical cards may see some people who need the cards lose them.
And he said this could mean very sick people won't be able to afford treatment.
"The reality is that for somebody like a cancer patient, or somebody else with certain other types of chronic illness, where there are repeated visits to hospital, you could suddenly find yourself facing a bill every week or every two weeks.
"And the bill is €75 a shot.
"I think that many patients are suddenly going to find themselves saying 'can I actually afford to go in for that chemotherapy this week?'".
Health Minister James Reilly has meanwhile said the Cabinet gave him the figure of €113m worth of savings to achieve from the review of medical cards.
However, so far the minister has also been unable to say how many people will lose their cards as a result.
Minister Reilly has welcomed the fact that a team from the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will come into his Department to oversee spending - and says they are doing so at his invitation.
He says anyone who is not legally entitled to a medical card shouldn't have one - and anyone who is legally entitled to one, should not worry.
Minister Reilly said the final figures have to be validated during the review.
"These were the figures that were given to us by Government and this is the cap within which we have to operate," he said.
"There is a PWC report which indicates that there is anything between €60m and €200m to be achieved in probity.
"So we have to validate all this - we've had our ceilings set by Cabinet… and as a cabinet minister I accept that."
Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also insisted that medical cards won't be taken off people who still deserve them.
Mr Kenny reiterated that there are no changes to eligibility criteria, after Fianna Fáil's Micheal Martin criticised plans to review the scheme.
The Taoiseach said the audit of medical cards will only weed out people who aren't eligible for them, or who have left the country.
- Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.