Latest figures released to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher show that the number of discretionary medical cards has now fallen below 50,000 to 49,596.
That means that over the past 3 years the government has taken away more than 30,000 of these cards, a reduction of 38.4%.
Deputy Kelleher commented: “Now with an election three weeks away, Fine Gael backbenchers have cottoned on to this as an issue and are calling on Minister Reilly to review the matter.
“While I welcome the fact that they are finally realising that Government policy on medical cards has resulted in very sick and vulnerable people being deliberately targeted for cuts it is important to point out that only last October Fine Gael and Labour voted down a Dáil motion highlighting this issue.
“The fact is that last year the HSE set a target for 2013 to reduce the number of discretionary medical cards and this deliberate targeting was approved by Health Minister James Reilly in the 2013 HSE Service Plan.
“We pointed this out last year in the Dáil and this year the Minister won’t even tell us what the projection is for discretionary cards.
“The discretionary medical card is essential for those with serious illnesses, the treatment of which can cause major financial hardship. The decision to deliberately target people in clinical need of such cards is absolutely deplorable.
“The government must stop targeting those with discretionary medical cards and ensure that no-one in clinical need is denied such cards where it can cause significant financial distress.
“It has been clear for a long time now from cases presenting to public representatives across the country that a wide-scale cull of discretionary medical cards has been underway. Yet the Government continues to mislead the public and deny that any such cuts are taking place. Now Fine Gael backbenchers have acknowledged that the game is up it is time for the Minister to do the same.”