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IHF CALLS FOR CLARITY ON ELIGIBILITY PROCESS FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL CARDS
Wednesday 24 July 2019
IHF CALLS FOR CLARITY ON ELIGIBILITY PROCESS FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL CARD FOR PATIENTS WITH TERMINAL ILLNESS APPROACHING END OF LIFE
The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) very much supports the provision of medical cards without means test to people with a life-limiting illness who are approaching end of life. We believe it to be an appropriate, compassionate and cost-effective measure. What is sad is that inconsistency in messaging and operation of the scheme is causing untold anxiety for such people.
We are deeply disappointed to learn that despite a concerted advocacy campaign by IHF and political assurances to the contrary dating back to 2014, people who receive medical cards on this basis are still being sent means-test forms to complete after they have had the card after six months.
The operation of the scheme on the ground has moved very far from the (then) Minister’s policy statement in 2014, repeated in the Dáil in 2016 (Parliamentary Question 413 of 22 March 2016). What is worse is that the HSE is sending out contradictory information about peoples’ entitlements. According to information given by the HSE (Parliamentary Question 2403/18) “Medical card eligibility is granted for an indefinite period, or for a limited time period, as seems appropriate in individual circumstances.” However, statements to the Irish Examiner (23 July 2019) suggest that policy “since 2012” has been that “Patients wanting an extension need to submit to a means test after five months”.
The last thing people approaching end of life and their families need is to be burdened with additional and often onerous means-testing when their limited prognosis has been certified by a medical practitioner in the first instance and they are six months further on their journey than when the card was first granted. Contradictory and confused messaging from the HSE about the application process only adds insult to injury.
The HSE must give prominence to and make accessible on the HSE website and in other appropriate publications, the special application process for medical cards without means test to people who have a limited prognosis and are approaching end of life. Above all it must clarify the exact criteria which apply to eligibility in these circumstances.
This is a most positive and appropriate provision by the State to support people within their last months of life. It is most unfortunate that it is becoming burdensome and clouded by confusion for the very people it seeks to help.
For more information on the process of applying for an emergency medical card, go here.