The Minister for Health has said she will be introducing an amendment to ensure that those over 70 do not immediately lose their medical card as a consequence of the death of their spouse.

She was speaking as the Dáil began debating the legislation that ends the automatic entitlement to a medical card for over 70s.

Minister Harney said the amendment will be brought in tomorrow.

Under the Health Bill 2008, people over 70 will lose their card if they have a weekly income over €700 per week for a single person or €1,400 for a couple.

Minister Harney said the new income threshold would result in 95% over of 70s qualifying for a card.

She also said a discretionary card would be available for those who fall above the limit, but whose healthcare causes undue financial hardship.

Earlier, Labour's Jan O'Sullivan said senior citizens should not have to bear the brunt of the Government's mismanagement of the economy and said the plan was profoundly unjust.

Fine Gael health spokesperson Dr James Reilly said his party is utterly opposed to the Bill and said it was anti-elderly.