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Medical Card assessment ‘leaving lots of Clare people in the cold’

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Policies in place surrounding assessment for accessing a medical card are leaving “a lot of people out in the cold”.

Holders of a medical card are able to access prescription medicine, hospital care, dental checks, public out-patient and in-patient services plus ear and eye tests for free. In applying for a medical card, individuals must provide income and expenses documents such as wages, social welfare payment, state or occupational pension, illness or maternity benefit, tax returns, bank statement, rent or mortgage payment, childcare costs, travel to work costs, maintenance payments and nursing home costs.

At the adjourned June meeting of Clare County Council, Cllr Gerry Flynn proposed the local authority request Minister for Health, Simon Harris review the current policy. “Calculations are currently based on gross income and what I am requesting is that the policy be based on a net income as the current policy is creating hardship for a lot of people who need support for medical needs.”

“A lot of people thought when they reached 70 years of age that they had an automatic right to a medical card. For the sake of a small amount of money, they were excluded from a medical card. The least the Minister for Health could do is help people looking for it. They feel let down by this Government,” the Shannon Town councillor added.

Independent Cllr PJ Ryan stated, “It was not so long ago since we had millionaires in this country on medical cards. A lot of people left out in the cold because the criteria used was very restrictive. The Government needs to look at the criteria for medical cards, something needs to be done about it. Definitely there are people who need medical cards that are outside the criteria”.

For the first time since his election in May, the youngest member of the Council Chamber, Cllr Mark Nestor gave his vocal backing to a proposal brought before a full meeting of the County Council. “Now we have a situation where people are earning too much not to avail of the medical card and not earning enough to pay for medical treatment. It is a very serious issue and I hope Minister Harris gives it the respect it deserves”.

Recalling his time as parliamentary assistant to former Clare TD Tony Killeen, Fianna Fáil’s Pat Daly noted, “Medical cards are very difficult to get. I remember my days working with Tony Killeen in the 90s and it was a constant issue. We should have a halfway house between gross and net”.

Cllr Flynn acknowledged the contribution of all councillors and in particular singled out Cllr Nestor. “The acid test for any Governmentt is how you deal with people in need, unfortunately the current Government has not survived the acid test”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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