Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has called on the Minister for Health to come clean on why medical card holders are being forced to bear high costs after their cards have lapsed or been withdrawn, pending a review of their eligibility.
Deputy Kelleher said: “I am extremely concerned by the situation developing around medical cards. It has emerged that GPs in the north east of the country have withdrawn co-operation from the primary care strategy as a direct result of their concern for their patients on medical cards. Many GPs now seem convinced that a cynical and underhand exercise is underway to cut costs. They believe hundreds of medical card holders are being stripped of their cards or where cards lapse and a review is pending there is no option for patients to recoup costs incurred in the meantime after the cards have been reinstated.
“If this is in fact a cynical effort to rein in costs then the issue of the Revenue’s trawl of pensioners’ taxes is not unique as these and other vulnerable groups are being targeted by the Government. There are also reports today that up €1,000 in payments under the Fair Care scheme have been withdrawn from 500 pensioners in nursing homes.
“I was outraged by the story of Regina Hennelly who outlined her difficulties very eloquently on the Newstalk Breakfast programme this morning. This is a clear example of a bureaucracy in the health service that is not serving the best needs of patients. There is no reason why Ms. Hennelly should be waiting from August for her renewal to be processed.
“Medical cards should not be removed from seriously ill patients pending a review of their eligibility. If people are found to no longer be eligible for a medical card it is only then that action should be taken, not before the review has taken place. I am also calling on the Health Minister James Reilly to urgently look at a bridging mechanism for patients with serious and chronic illnesses whose medical cards have lapsed and new applications are being processed. There are significant delays being experienced by people in need of a medical card and I think it is only right that this issue should be addressed immediately.”