100,000 medical cards on way as slump bites
AS many as 100,000 extra medical cards are to be issued this year, mainly as a result of the deteriorating economy.
There are approximately 1.67m card holders in the country at the moment but that figure is to take a big jump in 2012.
It means the number of people entitled to the concession is rapidly heading towards the two million mark.
If a further 100,000 cards are issued this year, it will increase the overall total by about 6pc.
Figures released at the beginning of 2010 showed there had been a 21pc increase since 2008.
Last year, more than 198,000 medical cards were issued.
Junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall said the decision to award a medical card is made by the HSE "mainly on the basis of the means of the applicant".
The conditions are set out in detail in the HSE's Medical Card/GP Visit Card National Assessment Guidelines.
"The HSE expects to issue an extra 100,000 cards in 2012 but this is primarily due to the general economic situation and not budgetary measures," she said in response to a Dail question.
While this will "undoubtedly" lead to extra costs, an accurate overall forecast is "not possible due to the very wide variation in personal circumstances", the minister added.
She released the information in reply to a query from Dun Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett of the People Before Profit alliance.
Last year, the HSE was considering suspending the issuing of medical cards as part of a raft of drastic measures aimed at breaking even.
Internal documents revealed the organisation was contemplating not issuing any new medical cards to a projected 42,044 people under 65 between October and the end of the year in order to save €18m.
Up to that time, the HSE had issued 84,088 new medical cards to under 65-year-olds and anticipated 126,132 would be issued by year-end.
Mr Boyd Barrett had asked the minister to outline the estimated cost "in terms of medical cards" following the abolition of concurrent payments of social welfare in Budget 2012.