Imelda Munster introduces bill to stop nursing home charges for medical card items and services
Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath, Imelda Munster, has introduced a bill which would ensure that residents of private nursing homes receive their full medical card entitlements.
Deputy Munster’s bill, the Health (Medical Entitlements in Nursing Homes) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019 will ensure that residents of private nursing homes receive their full medical card entitlements, and that they have recourse should a nursing home attempt to deny residents these entitlements.
The bill is co-sponsored by Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for disability rights and older people, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, and it has two main functions.
It will remove the legal ambiguity around the entitlements of medical card holders who live in private nursing homes by stating unambiguously that medical card holders maintain all entitlements under their medical card when they reside in private nursing homes.
It will amend the powers of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to oblige them to investigate individual cases around issues with contracts between residents and nursing homes when a complaint is made.
Deputy Munster said:
“I have been contacted by several constituents who have a family member in a nursing home who is being charged for services that should be free of charge for medical card holders in private nursing homes. Residents are having to pay for products and therapies such as wound dressing, bed sore creams, painkillers, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, despite these being covered under the medical card.
“The practice appears to be becoming more widespread. I’m aware of one case where an elderly resident was billed over €2,500 over a fifteen month period for items that should have been free of charge.
“Other families have told me that when they complained about these charges, they were told that their relative can go elsewhere if they don’t like it. This is completely unacceptable. Elderly people living in residential nursing homes have a right to their full state entitlements. Telling them to pack up and go elsewhere is an outrageous response, and it is indicative of the lack of accountability in this area.
“The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission published guidelines recently for nursing homes, outlining the entitlements of residents. During media interviews on the matter, the CCPC said that they could not investigate individual complaints as they did not have those powers under the law.
“This bill simply adds nursing home contracts to the list of areas that the CCPC shall investigate. The problem facing families at the moment is that there is no one to bring cases to for investigation. This bill gives the CCPC the power to investigate complaints. It represents much needed consumer protection, which has been lacking to date.
“Our bill aims to fill the gap around who is responsible for investigating individual cases, and to clarify and strengthen existing laws.
“A person in receipt of a medical card has the same entitlements whether they live ordinarily in the community or in a nursing home. This bill makes sure that that will happen in practice.”