Questions and Answers
Information provided by the Department of Health and Children
Wednesday 22nd October 2008
What has the Government announced?
The Government has announced that with effect from 1 January 2009 new income thresholds will apply for medical cards for people aged 70 and over.
The new arrangements mean everyone aged 70 or over whose gross income is less than €700 a week (€36,500 a year)for a single person and €1,400 a week (€73,000 a year) for a couple can now be sure they will keep their medical card.
These new arrangements are designed to make the system as clear and user friendly as possible. They mean that:
- People whose gross weekly income is less than €700/€1,400 will have a medical card
- People whose income is over the limit may still get a medical card if their personal or health circumstances cause them undue financial
- All other people will be covered by the Drugs Payment Scheme
How many people will keep their cards?
95% of those aged 70 or over - about 330,000 out of 350,000 - will keep their cards.
Will you be contacted by the HSE?
The HSE will write to all medical card holders aged 70 or over informing them about the new arrangements.
People whose income is below the new threshold will simply keep their cards and continue to use them as normal.
Only those above the income limits will be required to notify the HSE.
If you know your income is below the limits you don't need to wait for the letter to arrive to be sure you are keeping your medical card.
Will there be a means test?
People who are aged 70 years or over and apply for a medical card after 1 January 2009 will be means tested to establish that their income is under €700/€1,400 a week.
Existing card holders will not have to undergo a means test unless their income is above the limits and they want to apply for a medical card on the basis of their personal or health circumstances.
People whose gross income is above €700/€1,400 (single/couple) a week will have to declare this to the HSE. In January next, the HSE will review the self-assessment process, examine the level of compliance and consider available options to confirm the information received.
Legislation to give effect to the new arrangements will provide that all existing medical cards will continue to be valid after 1 January 2009 if the person's income is below the relevant new threshold.
What does income mean? Is it gross income or net income?
Income is any earnings you receive in the form of a pension or through investments or savings.
What is assessed is gross income, i.e. income before tax or other deductions. It is easier for people to know what their gross income is.
What about savings?
It is only the interest earned on savings that is counted as income, not the savings.
Income from savings up to the first €36,000 for a single person and €72,000 for a couple is not counted.
What happens to people whose income is above the limit?
People whose gross income is above €700/€1,400 (single/couple) a week will have to declare this to the HSE.
Those whose income is over the limit may still get a medical card if their personal or health circumstances cause them undue financial hardship.
The existing HSE appeals mechanisms will also continue to apply.
What will happen on 1 January 2009?
All existing medical cards will continue to be valid after 1 January 2009 unless the person's income exceeds the relevant new thresholds.
Persons who reach age 70 will be able to apply for, and receive, a card in the normal way and will get a medical card if their income is below the €700/€1,400 threshold.
What about someone who is under 70 now and married to someone over 70?
If one member of the couple is aged 70, they will both qualify for a medical card if their income is below €1,400 a week.
Last updated on: 22 / 10 / 2008