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New medical cards should cover all services - Ó Caoláin

11 August, 2005

“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

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