IMO responds to new Government proposals on Medical Cards.
Welcome for changes but warning of danger of withdrawing existing discretionary cards from people
Tuesday 25th November 2014. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has given a “cautious welcome” to announced reforms of the medical card system by the Minister for Health. The IMO was at the forefront of the campaign to highlight the damage caused by the attempt to cull discretionary medical cards over the past number of years. The IMO said that the proposals announced today accepted the important role of “discretion” in relation to granting medical cards and this was an acknowledgement by the Government that they had “got it wrong” when they tried to remove discretion from the process in the first place.
Speaking today, Dr. Ray Walley, Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO said there were positive signs that the Government had learnt an important lesson; “we welcome the acknowledgement that you can’t simply eliminate the role of discretion. We welcome the acknowledgement of the role of the General Practitioner in decisions on medical cards and we welcome the acceptance that different elements have to be weighed up in reaching decisions on who should get a medical card. I hope Government now realise the importance of listening to GPs who on a daily basis advocate for their patients.”
“The IMO has always had concerns on the centralised system of medical card applications which instead of making things easier for patients appeared to only put obstacles in the way of those wishing to access their entitlements. The new system must treat patients as human beings and not just a number”
Dr. Walley pointed out the difficulty that would be faced in seeking to withdraw discretionary cards from people who currently have them; “It is extremely difficult to withdraw a medical benefit that people currently enjoy and I would urge the Government to think very long and hard before they seek to terminate any existing medical card.”
Dr. Walley reiterated that the IMO fully supports GP Care which is free at the point of access to the whole population but cautioned against any further extension on age grounds. “We must focus care on those most in need and the most equitable way to do that is to extend care to those on lower incomes and those suffering from complex chronic disease. We need to move away from any further age cohort policies which are not supported by evidence based medicine and are not socially progressive in meeting needs of those on lowest incomes.”