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Specific cases show that there has been a change in policy regarding medical card eligibility – McDonald

14 November, 2013 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has stated that there has been a clear change in government policy with regards to medical card eligibility.
Deputy McDonald made the comments as she questioned HSE Directors and Executives from the Department of Health during a sitting of the Committee of Public Accounts today.
She said:
“The HSE and the Department of Health have been at pains to emphasise that there has been no change in qualifying criteria for a medical card, particularly around discretionary medical cards. You have also cited section 45 of the 1970 Health Act and you have underscored that it is this legislation that determines whether or not a card is awarded.
“But can I just move from the general to the specific and put a specific case to you?
“The specific individual is a five year old child called Katie Connolly. She is from Douglas in Cork. She has Down Syndrome. She has been turned-down on assessment for the renewal of her medical card, which she had, as decided in line with section 45 of the 1970 Health Act.
“She had it since birth. She has Down Syndrome. She has Asthma. She has a heart condition that needs to be monitored every two years and she has recently been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.
“Her family always understood that on a simple, crude means test that they would not qualify for a card. However, Katie had a card as adjudicated by the authorities in line with section 45 of the 1970 Health Act.
“She had a card. She does not any longer have that card. She has no GP visit card. She has no card.
“In this specific case, where this child was judged to qualify for a full medical card on one day and is now judged not to qualify for any medical card, the legislation hasn’t changed, the child’s conditions have not changed, and the family’s means have not changed. All of those are constants in the scenario.
“So I put it to you, notwithstanding what you have you have said here and you are dancing on the head of a pin, the one thing that has changed is the policy applied in respect of how eligibility is interpreted.
“The fact is that in this case, and this case is representative of many cases, this child in accordance with the established law was judged to merit a full medical card under the 1970 act. Under the same legislation now, the view is that she does not qualify.
“The child’s conditions haven’t changed. The family circumstances haven’t. The law hasn’t changed. So you are either telling me that this child illegally obtained a medical card or the only other conclusion that a reasonable person can arrive at is that there has in fact been a policy change and that you and your colleagues in the HSE are moving heaven and earth to try to disguise or conceal that fact.”

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