HSE aims to clarify medical card eligibility

Wednesday 30 October 2013 23.28
The HSE has launched the strategy after confusion caused by changes in the Budget
The HSE has launched the strategy after confusion caused by changes in the Budget

The Health Service Executive has said it wants to clear up any doubts the public may have about eligibility for medical cards.

It has launched a new communications strategy to bring clarity to the process.

The HSE has said it will provide additional information on its website on the process for applying for a card, with further assessment details online.

It plans to distribute information leaflets nationwide and run advertisements in the media.

The HSE has said it also wants to improve engagement with organisations such as Age Action Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, Down Syndrome Ireland and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.

It also plans to increase the opening hours of its information helpline for those seeking assistance.

The HSE has created a new online video on its website, providing information on the medical cards process.

Minister for Health James Reilly welcomed the HSE's plans and said he wants people to have all the information they need.

Mr Reilly said: "People need full information around medical cards. They are naturally worried and become anxious when they can't get full access to all the facts they need.

"No one who is entitled to a medical card need worry. Despite the significant savings to be made by the HSE in the year ahead, nobody who is entitled to a medical card will lose it or be refused one", he said.

Mr Reilly said his department and the HSE were both culpable for a lack of clarity over who was and was not entitled to a discretionary medical card.

He said the number of people in receipt of medical cards or GP visit cards is at the highest level in the history of the State in absolute terms and also in percentage terms.

Meanwhile, the head of primary care at the HSE has said the vast majority of people who have lost a discretionary medical card will be eligible to receive other State supports.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, John Hennessy said the health agency was attempting to explain to the general public who was and was not entitled to a medical card.

He said the HSE had recently standardised the regime by which discretionary medical cards were decided, which had led to many people being excluded on the basis of high incomes.

He said the HSE was attempting to save money, but this would not happen at the expense of people who are entitled to a discretionary card.