Disability Federation of Ireland Raises Concerns Over Medical Card Review 

18th October 2013

Dublin

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) today raised a number of concerns regarding the review of medical cards announced by Minister Reilly in Budget 2014.

The Department of Health is seeking to save €113 million through the medical card review by improving the accuracy of the medical card system, changing the income thresholds for those over 70, and introducing amendments to the return to work arrangements.

John Dolan, Chief Executive of DFI, stated that “we are concerned that this review will unduly target those currently receiving discretionary medical cards who may fall over the income threshold, and that the episodic nature of certain illnesses and conditions will not be taken into account. For many people with disabilities, the costs associated with their condition, including general medical services, therapies, transport, and the expense of medical aids and appliances, compromise their capacity to meet other basic costs of living. Removing the medical card from these people will cause their families undue hardship and stress”.

He continued, “changes in the return to work arrangements in relation to medical cards poses another worry. People with disabilities who receive Jobseekers, the Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Illness Benefit or Disability Allowance will now find their Medical Cards replaced with GP Visit-Only cards on taking up employment. The fear of losing this protection forces people with disabilities out of the labour market, pushing them into a poverty trap for the foreseeable future.  Currently, just 20% of people with disabilities are at work, compared to 50% for the overall population, and this measure will only serve to widen that gap”. 

Mr Dolan further explained that this move undermines the Comprehensive Employment Strategy, which aims to build bridges to employment, promote job retention and provide supports for those re-entering the workforce. “These ambitions cannot be realised if people are forced to give up their medical cards. As it stands, four out of five people with disabilities acquire their disability when they are of working age, and Ireland already has one of the lowest instances of people returning to work following their illness or injury”.

He concluded “There is no official indication of how the changes to the medical card will be implemented, but it has been speculated that in the region of 100,000 medical cards may be taken out of the system.  This Government must end its contradictory policy of introducing national policy objectives that support community living and employment for people with disabilities on the one hand, and implementing continued cuts in funding and administrative practices that undermine supports to people with disabilities on the other.  We will be raising this issue with the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Protection  in the coming days.” 

ENDS

For further information please contact

John Dolan, CEO, 086 795 7467

Allen Dunne, Deputy CEO, 086 850 2112

 

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