GPs Warn of Major Problems with Medical Card Scheme

GPs warn of major problems with medical card scheme Patients being denied access to card benefits due to system errors

Wednesday 24th February 2010

The Irish Medical Organisation [IMO] has warned that patients are losing access to medical card benefits because of serious problems in the administration of the medical card scheme. According to the IMO, cards are being cancelled without anyone advising patients, eligible card holders are being dropped from lists and long delays are being faced by applicants for medical cards.

In a submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health & Children (who today debated a motion on the Centralisation of Medical Card Services), the IMO highlighted the administration difficulties that have arisen in relation to the validation of medical cards.

Evidence from an IMO survey conducted amongst GP members found such issues to be widespread throughout the country. For example, one GP in Louth reported that 37 patients on a local list received letters with GMS [medical card] numbers but were not on the national list when checked online. Another GP in Limerick found that 76 patients had been deleted from the PCRS system without informing the patient or the GP. A number of GPs in the Dublin region said their patients were experiencing long delays in renewing their cards as well as ongoing difficulties in contacting their local HSE office.

In summary, the survey points to systemic problems in relation to the administration of medical cards including:

  • Differences between national and local lists of GMS patients with the Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme [PCRS] only making payments in respect of the national list;
  • Patients are not always being advised that their medical card is due to expire and when such notifications are issued no renewal forms accompany the letter;
  • Patients whose eligibility has expired but is not reflected in the expiry date on the card;
  • Patients are refused medical cards even though they meet the eligibility criteria
  • Patients experience unacceptably long delays (between 2-6months) renewing cards;
  • Lack of transparency in respect of eligibility for elderly patients in residential care.

Dr. Ronan Boland, GP Chairman of the IMO said; “These issues are presenting unnecessary difficulties for patients who believe they have an entitlement to GP services through a valid medical card. However, the reality is they find themselves exposed to the full cost of private medical services until their cards are reinstated.”

For further information contact:
Maria Murphy
Director of Communications &
Public Affairs
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