Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central and spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has accused the Government of being morally bankrupt for pressing ahead with a cull on discretionary medical cards.  The number of medical cards issued on a discretionary basis has plummeted from 80,000 to 50,000 over the past three years.  That’s more than 30,000 people who have had their cards taken away from them.

Deputy Kelleher commented, “What’s going on in the discretionary medical card system is indefensible and inexcusable.  People with serious illnesses are having their medical cards removed, while the Government forces through its plan to give free GP care to the under sixes.

“What sort of society are we living in whereby the leaders of the country can justify removing a medical card from a person who has a life-threatening condition, disability or congenital disease before handing a GP visit card to every child under the age of six, regardless of their parents’ financial background.  This is the decision the Government has made.

“This is yet another attack on the oldest and sickest in our country.  Not content with cutting allowances in successive Budgets, the Government is now actively removing medical cards from the people who need them most.

“I have been contacted by families whose loved ones have motor neuron disease, and who have had a medical card refused.  This is a disease for which there is no cure, and yet the Minister is prepared to drag these people through a system which is heartless, bureaucratic and is set up purposely to discourage people from applying for a medical card on a discretionary basis.

“The Minister promises a universal health system, but only for children under the age of six.  The Government has made a decision which is entirely wrong, unjust and should be reversed immediately.   It’s a disgrace for the Minister to ask the sickest, oldest and dying people to fund GP care for the under sixes.

“The Minister continues to refuse to accept that it’s become more difficult to be granted a medical card on a discretionary basis, despite the fact that organisations like the Jack and Jill Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society and Down Syndrome Ireland stating that there has been a change in the assessment procedures.

“I am calling on the Minister to accept, even at this late stage, that the discretionary medical card was there for a good and valid reason.  It brought humanity and support to an extremely bureaucratic system and should be maintained.  The Minister’s consistent denials that the medical card is being targeted, when the figures speak for themselves, are indefensible”.