Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Persons aged seventy years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card, irrespective of means. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.
Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. In June 2006 I agreed with the HSE to raise the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards. For Medical Card and GP Visit Card applications, the HSE now considers an applicant’s income after tax and PRSI are deducted, rather than total income. Allowances are also made for expenses on childcare, rent and mortgage costs and the cost of travel to work. Application forms are available from the HSE, which can be contacted on its National Information Line on lo-call 1850 24 1850 or visit the HSE website at www.hse.ie.
I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible.
In relation to services for people suffering from eating disorders, the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled “A Vision for Change”, which was launched in January 2006, acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for people with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services. “A Vision for Change” provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year implementation timeframe.
Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, the further development of primary and community care services and the provision of a full multidisciplinary team in a National Centre for Eating Disorders for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams.
Additional funding of €750,000 was allocated to the Health Service Executive in 2007 for the further development of designated eating disorder services and commissioning of services from agencies. Funding is also provided to Bodywhys, which provides a national helpline, regional support groups, email support and a dedicated website (www.bodywhys.ie).
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