Tuesday, 7 December 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
227. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the continuing discrepancy in the qualification for medical cards where a couple in receipt of individualised invalidity pension payments are above the income limit guidelines; his policy on the provision of medical cards for all people in receipt of social welfare payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26108/99]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on means. Under the Health Act, 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship.
Income guidelines are drawn up to assist in the determination of a family's eligibility and these are revised annually in line with the consumer price index. However, the guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though the family's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the chief executive officer considers that their medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis. It is open to all persons to apply to the  chief executive officer of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.
There are a number of income sources which are not taken into account when assessing applicants' income. These include blind welfare allowance, carer's allowance, child benefit, domiciliary care allowance, family income supplement and supplementary welfare allowance. Social welfare benefits such as disability benefit, invalidity pension and unemployment benefit are not excluded income in this respect.
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