Independent TD Mattie McGrath has given a cautious welcome to a new series of guidelines which will govern how the application and renewal process for Medical Cards will proceed. Deputy McGrath was speaking after Minister for Health Leo Varadkar announced his 10 point action plan to improve the operation of the medical card system, particularly for people with significant medical needs:
“After the horrendous year that people on discretionary medical cards have had, this new action plan should be given a cautious welcome at best.
I acknowledge that the Minister is actively trying to reconstruct a functioning medical card system from the ruins James Reilly left it in, but we will have to wait and see if this new approach will yield better results.
Certainly the tone of the plan appears more humane and seems on the face of it to give much more consideration to the overall burdens that long term illnesses place on families and individuals.
I also welcome the fact that the power of GPs to extend medical cards in difficult circumstances will be strengthened. Very often it is the local GP who is most aware of the complexities of a person’s medical needs and they should have a more direct role in assessing who needs a medical card.
I am concerned however that the main emphasis is still on means testing as the primary criteria for obtaining a card.
If we have learned anything from the crisis over the last year then it is that there was often a cruel and rigid application of these criteria.
That is something than cannot be replicated as part of these new guidelines; and if it is then it will be doomed to failure from the very start,” concluded Deputy McGrath.