Tuesday, 14 December 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
246. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will extend the medical card scheme to all children suffering from asthma, irrespective of family circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26742/99]
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 person's eligibility and these are revised annually in line with the consumer price index. However the guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the chief executive officer considers that his-her medical needs or other circumstances would justify this.
In view of this special provision, I do not feel it justifiable, nor did previous Governments, on  health policy grounds, to extend an automatic entitlement to a medical card to any specific group without any reference to their means, as a general rule. 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.
With effect from July 1999, revised arrangements for refunds for drugs were introduced. Under the new scheme, the drug payment scheme, a person and his-her dependants will not have to pay more than £42 in any calendar month for approved prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances.
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