Irish Medical Organisation

Carer Allowance Cards

You will be aware of the recent announcement of the decision to grant GP Visit cards to all citizens in receipt of carers allowance from the state. The IMO is disappointed at the announcement given that access to a GP Visit Card or Medical Card is already on the basis of means. Those who cannot afford to pay for GP care receive a medical or GP Visit card. This is now moving into an area where patients are given a GP visit card on a separate basis to that which currently exists. This has not been agreed with the IMO.

If this is to be more than a political PR exercise it is essential that the State agree a specific card for such patients. The GP Visit card creates limited eligibility and does not grant the holder access to medicines, mental health services, counselling, and other community based services which those with full eligibility (i.e. a medical card) are entitled to. In these circumstances the IMO are of the view that a specific card, with access to specific services and a specific rate of capitation should apply to those who are set to receive a card under the new proposed scheme.

It is unacceptable that in the middle of negotiations with the IMO on new GP services that announcements of this nature could be made with any prior discussion.

It is proposed that the legislation be enacted in the middle of next year and IMO have sought engagement with the Department of Health on this issue. The IMO are of the view that this cohort of patients cannot be brought in on the current scheme but will need specific services which are not available under the GP Visit Card. A bespoke solution is required and this includes a specific card for this scheme with access to services and a recognition of the high workload that will be associated with these patients. There is precedent for similar situations.

There are now some 2.15 million citizens in receipt of either a GP Visit Card or a Medical Card. This scheme is expected to bring a further 40,000 into the system. However as the number in receipt of carer’s allowance increases so too will the number with the automatic entitlement to the GP Visit Card. It is short sighted to allow an open ended scheme, which determines whether someone is entitled to receive carer’s allowance, to now also determine a right to a GP Visit Card. By increasing the number entitled to the carers allowance this can also have a huge knock on effect on the GP service. Linking the two systems in this way may lead to unforeseen consequences into the future.

The IMO now calls on the government to engage immediately on this issue.

The IMO have also issued a press release on this matter and that can be viewed here

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