The HSE has introduced new steps to enhance the operation of the medical card scheme and make it more sensitive to people’s needs, especially arrangements relating to the issuing of medical cards on a discretionary basis.
The HSE is taking 10 actions to improve the operation of the medical card system, particularly for people with significant medical needs:
· An enhanced assessment process which takes into account the burden of an illness or a condition;
· The greater exchange of information between the medical card central assessment office and the local health offices;
· People with a serious illness who hold a discretionary card can also be reassured that they will retain their card pending implementation of the actions to improve the operation of the scheme;
· The power of GPs to extend medical cards in difficult circumstances will be strengthened;
· A clinical advisory group is being established by the HSE to develop guidance on assessing applications involving significant medical conditions;
· The default position for medical cards given to people with terminal illnesses is that they will no longer be reviewed;
· The HSE will be empowered to provide people with therapies or appliances if that’s what they need, even in the absence of a medical card;
· The HSE will develop a single, integrated process for people to apply for a medical card, a GP visit card, the Long-Term Illness scheme, and the Drugs Payment Scheme;
· Access points will be established around the country in health offices to support and assist people to make applications;
· The Department and the HSE will consider the best way to make medical aids and appliances available to persons who do not hold a medical card, the provision of services to children with severe disabilities, and to enable people with particular needs to have these met on an individual basis rather than awarding a medical card to all family members.
Minister of State for Primary and Social Care, Kathleen Lynch said, “The HSE is comprehensively reforming how the medical card scheme operates so that it will be easier for people to understand and will provide a high-quality customer service. People with a serious illness who hold a discretionary card can also be reassured that they will retain their card pending implementation of the actions to improve the operation of the scheme.”
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said the medical card controversy of last summer required the Government to reconsider how the whole system works.
“Having done so, with the help of the Expert Group, we have concluded that a financial means-test remains the fairest way to assess eligibility. But we also need an enhanced assessment process which takes into account the burden of an illness or a condition. From now on, wider discretion and greater humanity will be exercised in such cases,” he said.