The National Association for General Practitioners (NAGP) will strongly oppose any plan to force medical card holders to prove their eligibility on an annual basis.

The Department of Health is currently considering stringent new rules which if introduced, could mean that the country’s two million medical card holders would have to reapply every year.

Under the current system, a person who qualifies for a medical card is given the vital benefit for three years before they must reapply for eligibility.

However, in a letter sent to the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) last July, the HSE has sought to have this period reduced to just one year.

Director General of the health service, Mr Tony O’Brien pointed out in the letter that the current “long period of eligibility” was based on tradition going back 40 years.

He wrote: “One of the major challenges for the state is the public perception, perhaps created by the tradition that medical card eligibility was provided for a long and defined period, that eligibility will not be removed until the end of the period.”
CEO of the NAGP, Mr Chris Goodey said that from an administrative perspective alone, forcing medical card holders to prove their eligibility on an annual basis would be “an absolute nightmare” not alone for GPs and their patients, but also for the HSE.

“General practitioners are already overworked and under-resourced and such a move would be totally unnecessary from an administrative and cost point of view. If this was to be introduced, there would be a massive backlash from GPs,” he stated.
Mr Goodey pointed out that it was the most vulnerable in society who would be worst affected if they had to prove their eligibility for a medical card every year.

“People who are chronically ill, people with chronic mental disorders will be left high and dry. These are people who change addresses often and will not get reminders so will not even be aware their medical cards have expired until they try to use them. People will have to gather a huge amount of information together every year to reapply, it just does not make any kind of sense,” he said.