The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, has today, Tuesday 9 February, secured Government approval to expand access to medical cards, making them available to all those who are terminally ill and have a prognosis of up to 24 months.
Minister Donnelly said:
"A terminal diagnosis is undoubtedly devastating. The provision of a medical card can provide much needed certainty and reassurance for individuals and their families during such a difficult time. Up to now, all those who have a prognosis of up to 12 months meet the ‘end of life’ criteria for eligibility for a medical cards.”
“This government made a commitment in its Programme for Government to extend medical card eligibility in cases of terminal illness. As Minister for Health I am eager to deliver this change as quickly as possible. With government approval secured today, I intend to direct the HSE to put in place arrangements to enable all those with a prognosis of up to 24 months to be eligible for a medical card.”
This new arrangement will confer a benefit to patients with diagnoses across a range of specialties such as:
Last November, the Clinical Advisory Group established by the HSE to examine this issue recommended legislative change to extend medical card eligibility in cases of terminal illness. The administrative scheme announced today will be in place for 12 months, pending the development of legislative options, which is currently being examined by the Department of Health.
Minister Donnelly said:
"I am pleased that the introduction of an interim administrative arrangement will ensure eligible persons can access a medical card while the necessary legislative framework to underpin this arrangement continues to be developed. My department will now work closely with the HSE with the aim of ensuring necessary processes and communications to operationalise the scheme are in place within weeks.”
the Clinical Advisory Group (CAG) was established by the HSE to carry out a review of the existing process for medical cards in cases of terminal illness and to advise of any change in arrangements deemed required, taking into account any ethical, medical or legal issues that may need to be considered
the CAG concluded, inter alia, that legislative change would most likely be necessary to underpin an extension to the current prognosis timeframe
Department of Health officials are therefore currently undertaking an examination of potential options for a legislative framework. The final Report of the CAG was published in November 2020 and can be accessed here
for further information
regarding the current medical card assessment processes, it should be noted that where the HSE is informed that a patient is receiving end of life treatment – that is when patients’ unfortunately have a prognosis of less than 12 months – a medical card is awarded to these patients and they are not required to undergo a financial means assessment nor are they ever reassessed
there are currently some 1,800 medical cards granted on ‘end of life’ criteria
as outlined the new administrative arrangement will extend the ‘end of life’ criteria from 12 to 24 months