Press Release

Statement by An Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children on new Medical Card

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health, Mary Harney, T.D. said today, (Thursday, 24 March 2005), that “200,000 people will benefit from the new medical card. It is now provided for in law.”

“This initiative is meeting the needs of low income families.The IMO welcomed the announcement last November. It is based on the uniform means test across the whole population, which the IMO sought.”

“People on low incomes were put off bringing their children to the doctor because of cost. Some GPs did see patients for free. Now the Government is providing the money to pay for this service.

“With the same budget, we can support four times more people visiting their doctor free with this card than with the traditional medical card. In total over 1.3 million people will have free access to their GP.

“The Oireachtas has voted the money for the initiative. €50 million in a full year will fund the new cards. All this money will go to GPs, over €25,000 per GP on average.”

The Tánaiste added “I do not accept this is a material change in the GPs’ contract. The capitation rates will be the same. The additional supports to GPs will be calculated on the same basis.

“The only difference for GPs with this new card is that they will fill in prescriptions on a different prescription form to the standard medical card form.

“We always accepted that details in relation to operational matters would be agreed with the IMO. The HSE has approached the IMO on a number of occasions to discuss this, but without success.

“The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health wrote to the IMO on 7th March about the new cards. The IMO replied on 21st March.

“The Health Service Executive is ready to process the cards. The income guidelines have been agreed. National ads have been prepared. People will be able to apply and the HSE will respond.

“The Government has put everything in place.

“The IMO could help by sitting down with the HSE now and agreeing some operational details.”

In conclusion, the Tánaiste said ; “Nothing and no-one should now stand in the way of people on low incomes visiting their doctors.”