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The problems with medical card provision are a result of government policy – McLellan

12 November, 2013

Sinn Féin TD for Cork East Sandra McLellan has said that changes to the provision of medical cards are a result of government policy.
Deputy McLellan was responding to comments made today by Fine Gael’s Deputy Jerry Buttimer (Chairperson of the Oireachtas Health Committee) who stated that health legislation is preventing some medical cards being given on a discretional basis due to the definition of long term illness.
Deputy McLellan said:
“Deputy Buttimer wants to skirt around the very real fact that the root-cause of the disgraceful changes to the provision of medical cards is government policy. It is as simple as that.
“His call for people to continue engaging with the process smacks of the hypocrisy and arrogance that has radiated from this government since 2011. This is a health process and a system that marginalises and isolates the very people who depend on it the most. The health service in this state is extremely sick. It is dying on its feet because of the failed approaches of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil before them.
“If there are issues around definitions and interpretations of the health legislation these should be resolved as soon as possible.
“It is all well and good Deputy Buttimer citing legislation but why haven’t the Fine Gael/Labour Government scheduled an Amendment Bill to resolve the issues of which he speaks?”
These definitions of long term illness are clearly not fit for purpose if they are preventing people suffering with cancer and children living with disabilities from obtaining discretionary medical cards. While some conditions wouldn’t be adequately represented by the term ‘illness’, I would imagine that reasonable people would view these cases as being no less worthy of medical card support.
“The reality is that €37 million is to be spent on the under-5s GP card but €149 million is to be taken out of the overall medical card budget. That will mean more people currently in need losing their medical cards.
“In our comprehensive, fair and costed alternative budget we in Sinn Féin provide for the extension of free GP care to all children under 5 without depriving anyone else of medical cards.
“The problem is that thousands of people have seen their discretionary medical cards discontinued or have had their applications refused when previously they would have been granted.
Many thousands more face the loss of their cards in 2014 if the Government adheres to its target of cutting medical card spending by €113 million (a figure they still cannot account for) under so-called 'probity'. This axe will fall mainly on discretionary medical cards for people who really need them."

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