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Extension of medical cards exposes flaws in system – Ó Caoláin

1 July, 2015 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

It was announced this morning that those under 18 years with a diagnosis of cancer will be granted medical cards. Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesperson Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed this but stated that “the Government had previously refused to extend access based on medical conditions as inequitable and not feasible.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated;

“This announcement required the mother of a very sick eight-year-old girl to tell their story of the difficulties they experienced in accessing a medical card. Extension of access in this manner had been demanded across the state over a period of years. It seems it is only a priority now with a General Election in sight. It also creates an arbitrary cut-off for those diagnosed with cancer over the age of 18 years.

“While I certainly welcome this action from Government, it is nevertheless the case that cancer is only one group of many serious conditions. There are many other diseases that can leave young and old in very debilitating situations or that require more frequent medical interventions. The Government had previously refused to give access to medical cards based on specific conditions, but it is clear that this is what they now intend to do. The expert group which the government itself appointed and tasked to examine this issue concluded that "it is neither feasible nor desirable to list conditions in priority order for medical card eligibility. A listing approach risks inequity by diagnosis and a further fragmentation of services".

“Where now are the promises of the Government to work on better accommodating the ‘burden of illness' across all conditions in the medical card system? Today's announcement should have been accompanied by the extension of an automatic medical card to every child receiving the Domicilliary Care Allowance - the monthly social welfare payment for children with serious disabilities. That would go much further in terms of meeting the medical needs of children with a wider range of serious persistent illnesses and their families and would ensure that the burden of disease would be taken into account and not simply a disease label with which there can be a spectrum of severity.

“While those with cancer under the age of 18 years will benefit from today’s announcement, this is not an equitable way to extend access to the medical card and flies in the face of the Government’s own advice. Is this the manner in which the Minister intends to extend access even further?” concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.


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