Irish Medical Organisation

Medical Card Chaos

IMO to warn Oireachtas Committee that thousands of patients are being denied medical card entitlements due to administrative chaos at HSE

[IMO Representatives will present their findings to the Joint Committee on Health & Children today (Tuesday, 23rd March 2010 @ 3.00 pm]

General Practitioners from the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) will today warn TDs and Senators that patient health is being compromised as a result of persistent administrative problems involving the medical card system.

The IMO estimates that hundreds of patients who have been or should be entitled to a medical card are losing entitlements because their registration on the National Medical Card list is lost, misplaced or out-of-date. In some cases, patients are being denied access to medicines they are entitled to and, with no money of their own to pay for them, there are growing risks of threats to patient safety.

The issue of administration difficulties for medical card holders will be addressed today at a special hearing of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. The Committee is to be addressed by GP members of the IMO.

As part of their presentation, the IMO delegation will brief Committee members on the results of a survey conducted by the organisation on the issue. That survey found:

  • In a sample of 60 practices at least 645 patients who hold a valid medical card or are entitled to a medical card yet they are not on the “one national list” held by the PCRS.
  • 224 patients were informed by their local office that their medical card is valid but they were not on the PCRS list at the time of checking
  • A minimum further number of 421 patients held valid medical cards but were invalid on the national PCRS list at the time of checking. Neither the patients nor the GPs had been informed of the change of status.
  • In 29 cases the cards should have been cancelled but the patients remain on the PCRS list.

Many patients are not receiving notification that their cards are due to expire and that they need to renew. In one practice alone a GP found 124 patients whose cards had expired and neither the patient nor the practice had been informed. In some cases medical cards have been cancelled or refused and no explanation is given as to why patients are no longer entitled. It is particularly unclear if patients who move into long-term care are still eligible and on what basis they are eligible.

While the IMO has received reports of problems with medical card validation from GPs all over the country and in respect of patients of all ages, the problems appear to be most acute in respect of:

  • Patients aged over 70, all of whose medical card renewals are processed centrally by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) since approximately January 2009
  • Patients of all ages living in the Ballymun and Rathdown Road LHO Regions in Dublin, all of whose medical card renewals are processed centrally by the PCRS since June or July 2009
  • Newborn children
  • Sixteen year old dependants of medical card holders who must apply for a card in their own name, their cards otherwise being cancelled automatically by the PCRS on reaching their 16th birthday
  • New medical card applications
  • Patients reapplying where their medical card has lapsed though their circumstances remain unchanged
  • Patients seeking to make a simple change of address.


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