Written Answers - Medical Cards.

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 597 No. 4

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  43.  Mr. Morgan  Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the timetable for the introduction of the general practitioner only medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4193/05]

  52.  Ms O. Mitchell   Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the details of the roll out of the doctor only medical cards; when the necessary legislation will be brought before Dáil Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4217/05]

  68.  Mr. G. Mitchell   Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   if she intends putting legislation for the doctor only medical cards through Dáil Éireann as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4218/05]

  73.  Mr. Costello  Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the reason for the delay in introducing legislation to provide for the issuing of the promised 200,000 doctor visit cards; if all arrangements for the introduction of the cards have been agreed with the doctors’ representative organisations; the steps taken to deal with the situation in those parts of the country; when she expects the legislation to be published; when she expects the first cards to be issued and all 200,000 cards to be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4253/05]

  78.  Ms McManus  Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the number of medical cards issued as of 30 September 2004; the latest date for which figures are available; the reason the number of medical card holders continues to decline having regard to the pledge in An Agreed Programme for Government to extend eligibility to bring in another 200,000 people and commitment given on the publication of the Estimates for 2005 that 30,000 additional medical cards would be issued from 1 January 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4252/05]

  87.  Mr. Crowe  Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the discussions she has had with general practitioner representatives about the introduction of the general practitioner only medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4200/05]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney): Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I propose to answer Questions Nos. 43, 52, 68, 73, 78 and 87 together.

My Department is at present considering the nature of the legislative changes required to enable effect to be given to the decision to introduce doctor visit cards. I have received legal advice that an amendment to the Health Act 1970 is required in order to enable effect to be given to this decision.

My Department is working with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel with a view to legislation in this regard being introduced in the Oireachtas as soon as possible. Work is also progressing, at the level of the Health Service Executive, on the necessary administrative arrangements to ensure that as soon as the necessary legislative provisions are enacted, doctor only medical cards can be issued.

The Health Service Executive will be contacting general practitioners who hold contracts under the general medical services scheme to advise them of the necessary administrative details regarding the new cards. There is no requirement for a process of industrial relations negotiations with doctors’ representative organisations in this regard. However, I look forward to constructive discussion with the Irish Medical Organisation in order to ensure the smooth introduction of the doctor only cards. The Health Service Executive will facilitate this.

In September 2004, the number of current medical cards in circulation was 768,895 providing services for 1,151,106 persons, or 29.39% of the population of 3,917,203, according to the 2002 census. In January 2005, there were 767,558 current cards providing services for 1,145,083 persons, or 28.32% of the population of 4,043,800, which is the official estimate of population as at September 2004.

The decline in medical card coverage can be attributed to the continued economic success of the country and also to results of the cleansing of medical card databases during 2003 and 2004, in which approximately 104,000 medical card records were removed. Many of the deletions from the database would have been due to normal reviews but a number would have been duplicate or expired records. Regular periodic reviews of eligibility are undertaken by the Health Service Executive to ensure that their medical card databases are accurate.

The implications of my decision to extend medical card coverage, as announced in November, will become apparent as the year progresses. New income guidelines, as agreed by the chief executive officers of the former health boards, are being used by the local area offices [1085]for the determination of eligibility to an additional 30,000 full eligibility medical cards since January 2005. The additional 200,000 doctor visit cards will be introduced progressively from April 2005, once the legal and administrative arrangements are in place.

Question No. 44 answered with Question
No. 21.


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