Statement by Irish Medical Organisation GP Committee - GPs on next week’s budget
• Budget must safeguard the “integrity” of the Medical Card scheme
Expansion of categories of patients covered by the medical card scheme must not come at the cost of reduced cover for core low income group
• Avoid any increase to prescription charges for medical card holders
Thursday 10th October 2013. Dr. Ray Walley, the Chairman of the GP Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has urged the Government to safeguard the integrity of the medical card scheme as a support for low income families in next week’s budget.
Dr. Walley said that the Government has overseen a fundamental change to the spirit of the medical card scheme to such an extent that public confidence in the scheme was now in danger. “At its core the medical card scheme is a key support for low income families and provides a critical lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the scheme to cover healthcare costs. While it is welcome that the Government would look at extending the range of population groups covered – at least in part – by the scheme, this must not be paid for by withdrawing or restricting the key benefits of the scheme from its core constituency.”
Dr. Walley said that public confidence in the scheme was being undermined by changes to its administration over recent years; “HSE bureaucrats are trying to cut costs by increasing obstacles to people getting the cover they deserve. Measures like tinkering with eligibility criteria or delaying medical card renewals might make sense to an economist but it’s a grave injustice to a low income family who are struggling to make ends meet.”
Dr. Walley also warned the Government against any increase on prescription charges for medical card holders.
Dr Walley said that “there is real concern that health inequalities and inequalities in access to care have increased dramatically during the recession and it is important that budgetary measures do not further widen these gaps, even Minister Reilly himself has acknowledged that the charge deters those on a low income from taking their prescribed medication”
Introduced in 2010, the fee per prescription item for patients has risen from €0.50 to €1.50 and from a maximum of €10 per month to a maximum of €19.50. The IMO are concerned that because of high out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, patients are avoiding collecting prescribed medication.
A recent survey by The Irish League of Credit Union survey have indicated that one in five Irish adults have less than €20 a month in disposable income after essential bills are paid and almost half of all working adults have less than €100 to live on after bills were paid.
Dr. Walley said; “High out-of-pocket payments can act as a barrier to health care and increase inequalities as people on low incomes find themselves in a situation that deters them from seeking appropriate medical care and getting the medication they are prescribed “.