Families can use out-of-date medical cards
THOSE facing delays in receiving new medical cards will be able to use their old card, the Department of Health has confirmed.
A new procedure has been sanctioned to allow holders waiting on their card renewals to use their existing card, even if it has passed its expiry date.
"A medical card will remain valid, irrespective of the expiry date shown on the card, once the medical card holder is genuinely engaging with the HSE review process," said Roisin Shortall, junior minister at the Department of Health.
It comes after the HSE have been heavily criticised over delays in processing applications and re-issuing cards, now that there is a centralised system in place.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has ordered the HSE primary-care reimbursement scheme to speed up the application process.
The delays have been attributed to the centralising of all applications, formerly processed locally, to one national centre last year and to the increase in applicants as a result of unemployment.
Examples given at a recent hearing of the Dail Public Accounts Committee showed that people have been forced to wait up to nine months for cards, when three weeks was the set target time frame.
According to this latest procedure, any doctor or pharmacist, or the card holder, can confirm eligibility online at www.medicalcard.ie or through the GP practice systems.
The ability to confirm eligibility is crucial, as some cardholders have been forced to pay for medicine and treatments because of the delay in processing renewal applications.
A number of TDs have raised concerns about the service in recent months, including Labour TD Anne Ferris.
Ms Ferris has welcomed the news that people can continue to use their existing cards until their applications are processed.
"In view of the long delays being experiences by people around the country in having their medical card renewals processed, it was very unfair for people on low incomes having to pay to see their doctors or to pay for medication that they are dependent on," she said.
"This will come as a relief to the many people who are waiting a long time, through, no fault of their own, to get their medical cards renewed."