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Medical card income threshold should be increased – Ó Caoláin

28 June, 2007

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called on Health Minister Mary Harney to increase the income threshold for medical card eligibility.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "In reply to a Dáil Question from Sinn Féin this week Health Minister Harney states that she has no immediate plans to change the income threshold below which people qualify for the medical card.

"The Minister's refusal to make this necessary change comes as the Combat Poverty Agency reports that almost 250,000 people at risk of poverty were unable to access medical cards and that 43,000 of these were living in consistent poverty.

"The reality is that a smaller proportion of the population now qualifies for the medical card than 25 years ago. 29% of people have medical cards now compared to 38% in 1983. Over 70% of people must pay for GP visits and other primary care which is free at the point of delivery or at low cost in most EU states.

"There is a pressing need for the Minister to act on the recommendations of both the Combat Poverty Agency and of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, also published this week, which call on the Government to set aside the two-tier structure of our healthcare system and replace it with a system based on need alone, including a single waiting list for all hospital patients." ENDS

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