HSE expects up to 50,000 medical card cuts

A review of eligibility thresholds and retentions rules is planned...

A new Health Service Executive (HSE) report has forecast that there will be a decrease in medical cards of between 30,000 and 50,000 in 2016.

This is despite predictions of long-term increases in the population aged over 65, over 85, and under 14.

The population of people over 65 is expected to increase to 909,000 by 2026, whilst the over 85 population is expected to double by 2026, reaching 104,000.

For under 14s, the population is predicted to grow to 1,114,000 by 2026, up from 957,000 in 2011.

The HSE is attributing the medical card reduction to rising employment in Ireland, as well as a planned review of eligibility thresholds and retention rules.

Cuts of up to 125,000 were initially predicted, but this was softened once Cabinet raised concerns over their extent late last year.

The draft National Medical Card Unit Strategy Plan says that one of the "threats" to the unit is:

"Increased levels of political representation arising from the perception from the public that political representation results in a favourable assessment outcome for the applicant".

The HSE also states that its work could be undermined by a "change in government policy and political landscape".

The HSE is still working under the assumption that the proposal to extend Free GP Care for Children under 12 years will go ahead in 2016.

Between 2004 and 2015, the number of people with medical cards and GP visit cards rose from 1.14 million to 2.17 million, an increase of nearly 90%.