Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said the overall health budget should allow the Minister for Health sufficient flexibility to introduce whatever changes he deems necessary on medical cards.

However, he said the overall Budget figures agreed last October would have to be adhered to.

Mr Noonan was speaking on arrival at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.

He was asked if the Government could afford a proposed third-tier medical card as proposed by Minister for Health James Reilly.

Mr Noonan said: "It's up to the Minister for Health to manage the health budget and to manage his policies within the health budget.

"There's an overall budget in health of €13.2 billion. That seems to me to give a lot of flexibility to do one thing and do another thing inside the Department of Health.

"The position is that the 2014 Budget figures were agreed on the 13th of October 2013. They are the figures ministers have to work with until the next Budget comes in."