Press Release

Tánaiste raises medical card income guidelines by 20% and encourages people to apply

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D., today announced that she has increased the income guidelines for medical cards and GP visit cards by 20 per cent.

The Tánaiste said : “I want people to feel they can visit their doctor without being put off by the cost. As we come up to winter, this is particularly important for children and older people.

“GPs provide a vital and comprehensive service in the community. They are able to deal with the great majority of people’s everyday health needs. They are the first point of contact for health advice and treatment for most people.”

“I have therefore increased the income guidelines for both traditional medical cards and the new doctor visit cards by 20 per cent. The income guidelines are now 29 per cent higher than this time last year.”

“Recently, I also simplified the means test. It is now based on people’s income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable rent and mortgage payments, childcare expenses and travel to work expenses.”

“These changes together will mean that many more people will be able to visit their doctor free of charge. I expect them to benefit older people on modest incomes who have not yet reached 70 years, when they are automatically entitled to a medical card.”

“I want people to know that they can now earn well above the minimum wage and be entitled to free GP services. This is especially the case for families, but also many single people on low incomes will qualify.”

“My Department is publishing some examples of how the means test will apply to particular people and families. These examples show that a single parent with one child can earn €560 per week and qualify for a medical card. A married couple with two children can earn €850 a week and qualify for a GP visit card.”

“I would urge people to apply now for the cards from the HSE. There are many people who may not realise that they are now eligible for these important benefits.”

“The Health Service Executive will widely publicise the changes to encourage people to apply and is making the application process as simple as possible. There will be one application covering both cards.”

“Incomes are rising fast in our successful economy. I have made this substantial increase in the guidelines for the means test to make sure people get the benefits the government has decided on.”

“The cost of these new cards will be met out of the Estimates for the HSE for this year and next. The government has given priority to this funding and there is no longer any barrier in the way of the cards being issued.”

“We are of course, continuing to fund and develop traditional Medical Card services. Over €1.4 billion is allocated to funding medical cards this year. €400 million of this is for GP services alone. When there is full take up of the new GP Visit Card, 85 per cent of card recipients will hold the traditional medical card.”

“In the period from January to September this year 149,500 new traditional medical cards have been issued , a number of these for the first time, while 145,500 have been deleted for various reasons including deaths, incomes changes and data updates. Many people have benefitted from getting a medical card for the first time in 2005.”

“The service is there, it is fully funded and it is of great benefit to people and their children.”