Discretionary Medical Card Changes

What does the Government decision on medical cards mean for me?

If you have lost your card since July 2011, you may be able to get it back. The decision covers people with a lifelong medical condition, acute illness or disability who were granted a card on a discretionary basis but lost it following a review since then. You must have completed the review process by providing all the documentation required and your medical condition would have been referred to a medical officer as part of the review process.


Who is not covered by the decision?

More than 15,000 of the 29,000 discretionary cards taken away during this period are covered. Those not covered include cases where incomplete documentation was provided or where the person has died since the review. HSE boss Tony O’Brien says that in a small number of cases, where people were prevented by particular circumstances from completing the review process, an ad misericordiam (mercy) process will apply that could see them regaining their lost card.


What do I have to do to get my card reinstated?

Nothing. The HSE says no action is required on the part of those affected, because its records show who is entitled to a return of their card. This process will take about three weeks.


That’s great, but I spent a heap of money on drugs and appliances since my card was cancelled in 2011. Am I entitled to compensation?

No. Minister for Health James Reilly and the HSE say the decision taken on discretionary medical cards since 2011 were validly and legally made and there is no question of compensation.


I fear losing my over-70s medical card as a result of the changes to income thresholds announced in last October’s budget. Do I benefit from the Government’s U-turn?

No. The Government decision is in relation to discretionary medical cards only and reviews of all other medical cards continue unaffected. The cardsnewly issued will be valid until July 2015.


I have a long-term illness and I thought the Government was going to start giving out medical cards automatically to people like me. Does this decision affect me?

No, but an expert group appointed by the HSE is working on proposals for awarding medical cards on the basis of medical condition as well as income. This group will report in September but legislation will be needed so the change is unlikely to happen until next year at the earliest. This means you will have to apply for a card and be assessed in the normal way – on your means, mostly – until the promised change is made. This might be unfair to you but the alternative was to do nothing in the face of public outrage. As Tony O’Brien quipped at yesterday’s press conference: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.”


The Primary Care Reimbursement Service (Medical Cards Office) can be contacted on the lo-call number 1890 252 919






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