New medical cards should cover all services - Ó Caoláin
“A fiasco” was how Cavan-Monaghan Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the
continuing uncertainty and delay in delivery of ‘doctor-only’ medical
cards. The Sinn Féin Health spokesperson said the cards should cover all
services so that an additional 200,000 people would have access to the full
medical card “as faithfully promised by the Government parties before the
last General Election”.
Deputy Ó Caoláin was commenting following news that the Labour Relations
Commission talks broke down on the issue of the ‘doctor only’ cards in a
dispute between the Health Service Employers’ Agency and the Irish Medical
Organisation. Deputy Ó Caoláin called for clarity from the Tánaiste and
Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney on whether people holding the
‘doctor only’ card will be entitled to the full medical card once they
reach 70 years. All persons over 70 are currently entitled to the full
range of medical card services.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “The ‘doctor-only’ medical card was announced by
Health Minister Mary Harney in a blaze of publicity late last year. It was
promised for 2005. We were then told that the cards would come on stream in
April. It is now August and it seems that the details of how the scheme
will work are still being clarified. This is a fiasco. It proves that the
‘doctor-only’ card was a rushed initiative designed to save the
Government’s face after it failed to fulfil its promise to extend the
medical card to a further 200,000 people.
“The reality is that the number of people entitled to the full medical card
continues to fall because the income threshold is so low. Many families on
low incomes do not qualify and face prohibitive medical bills. Now we find
that the ‘doctor-only’ card is still in doubt and, incredibly, there is a
question mark over whether people who receive this new card will be
entitled to the full card after 70.
“The Government should call a halt to this fiasco by revising the income
threshold upwards to ensure that the 200,000 people most in need receive
the benefit of the full medical card as promised.” ENDS