Ó Caoláin slams Minister Reilly’s “sheer brass neck”
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has condemned Health Minister James Reilly for introducing a Bill to restrict medical card access for people over 70, despite having vociferously opposed change to the universal over 70s medical card when in opposition.
Speaking on the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Bill 2013, Deputy Ó Caoláin said it would remove the medical card from thousands of older citizens.
“You have to hand it to the Minister for Health James Reilly for sheer brass neck. Back in 2001/2002 he was head of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP section. He spoke publicly against the decision of the then Fianna Fáil/PD Government to extend the medical card without means test to people over 70. He then negotiated a hugely lucrative deal for GPs to provide care for these new over-70s medical card holders.
“Fast forward to 2008 when the Fianna Fáil/Green Government tried to row back on the universal over-70s medical card entitlement and met with a huge wave of opposition from older people.
“Deputy Reilly did not mince his words. He said the threat to withdraw the over-70s card was a ‘vicious attack’ and a ‘savage assault on the elderly’.
“When the Fianna Fáil/Green Government was forced to back down and introduced the present over-70s medical card scheme based on an income limit, Deputy Reilly said it was a ‘desperate climbdown’ but their ‘tinkering with income limits is nowhere near good enough’.
“In the Fine Gael-Labour Programme for Government we are told that Universal Primary Care will remove fees for GP care and will be introduced within this Government’s term of office. Minister Reilly promised that the first phase, the extension of free primary care to claimants of free drugs under the Long-Term Illness Scheme, would be in place in summer 2012. It wasn’t.
“And here we are today, 20 March 2013, and there is no bill to extend free primary care in any way. On the contrary we have this legislation, the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Bill 2013, which is designed to reduce the numbers of citizens entitled to free primary care under the medical card scheme.
“Again and again, in opposition, Deputy Reilly quite rightly pointed out that restricting access to primary care was penny wise and pound foolish because older people would suffer poorer health outcomes and require more hospital visits, in-patient care and residential nursing home care. Yet now, in the very same manner as his Fianna Fáil predecessors, he brings forward a Bill to restrict medical card access, a so-called savings measure that will adversely affect the health of our older citizens.”