Tipperary Fine Gael TD Noel Coonan has said there has been much recent unwarranted criticism of the medical card system from other Tipperary TDs in the media.
He wishes to clarify that “after changes announced in the Budget, 97 per cent of people over the age of 70 will still have access to a Free GP card.”
Deputy Coonan said: “This Government has done its utmost to protect the elderly, but this must include ensuring support is provided to those who need it most. A single elderly person who earns up to €500 per week will still be entitled to a medical card, while couples earning up to €900 will also be unaffected.
“Opposition Tipperary TDs are using this sensitive issue as a political football and are trying to whip up fear and confusion amongst the elderly population with his claims. More than eight out of every ten people aged over 70 will still be entitled to a medical card after the Budget adjustments are implemented.
“This Government has protected a series of payments to the elderly, despite huge budgetary adjustments. The old age pension has been untouched by this Government, as well as the widow’s pension and the blind pension. Every effort has been made to maintain core social welfare rates, while also protecting working families from any rises in income tax,” continued Deputy Coonan.
“Opposition TDs seem to be suggesting that every older person should be entitled to a medical card, regardless of their income. This is neither sustainable nor realistic. Instead, the Government is determined to ensure that medical cards are maintained for elderly people who need them most.
“This is against the backdrop of a very difficult budget situation for the health sector. Our health services face considerable challenges; there has been a 20% reduction in the health budget, a 10% reduction in staff numbers, and a 8 per cent increase in our population. Despite these challenges, 43 per cent of the population currently has access to a medical card; the highest ever number since records began,” concluded Deputy Coonan.