Over 70 medical card crisis

The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament deplores the decision by the Government and the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, TD and the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, TD, to abolish the entitlement to a Medical Card for Older People over 70.

Older People applauded the introduction of the scheme and the reasons which were valid then are still valid today. There are 350,084 people over 70 who have Medical Cards and they represent just 8.07% of the total population. There is general agreement that the card has been responsible for improving the health of Older People and reducing the percentage of the population in Long-Term Care.

The idea that all Older People will now be means tested to retain the card they already have is a retrograde step and we question whether it will cost more than it is going to save. Our understanding is that up to 90% of Older People will still qualify for a Medical Card so what will this ‘elaborate clerical exercise’ achieve?

This step has broken faith with promises made to Older People.
The extra costs associated with the delivery of the medical services to those aged over 70 were not the fault of Older People and should not be used as a reason to deprive them of the Medical Card. Such matters should have been dealt with before now!

Older People are being treated unfairly and this measure will cause further hardship and uncertainty to already sick and frail Older People.

We demand that this measure be reconsidered now.

RTE News: Major changes to medical card plan

BreakingNews.ie: Cowen announces roll-back on over-70s medical cards

Other resources:

Dáil Protest Rally – Wednesday 22 October

Offers for people planning to attend Dáil protest rally (RTE’s Liveline).

ISCP Call-to-action

What do the political parties have to say?

Government: Fianna Fáil Green Party Progresive Democrats

Opposition: Fine Gael Labour Party Sinn Féin

Explanation of the medical card eligibility (RTE)

Official Government Budget site

Politics.ie discussion on the crisis


Support from Dublin Council of Trade Unions and the Public Health
Service Campaign

RTE Liveline podcasts (mp3 sound files: left-click to listen, right-click to download)

  • Liveline Podcast – Medical Card Means Testing

    Callers concerned that the medical card for over seventies will be means tested.

  • The medical card crisis in the news

    22 October:

    21 October:

    20 October:

    19 October:

    18 October:

    17 October:

    16 October:

    15 October:

    14 October:


    1. I am 77 years of age and a political activist. Even though we may be only 8% of the population, I know that we vote on a regular basis as opposed to most of our young people who find it a bother. So Brian & Mary be careful when discriminate against us, elderly citizens. It’s the government’s fault for us being alive this long because they gave us this benefit in the first place. To quote an Merida communist politicion , “Old people should just go away and die”.

    2. I am for means testing medical cards to a certin degree. It should all be individually assesed. Look at it this way, 2 people earning the same money, the 1st is a healthy and well exercised person who is able to live their lives with no real medical problems except the odd cold, the 2nd person has breathing problems, has suffered a stroke and is wheelchair bound on longer trips then to the toilet.
      The question here is which one is in more need of a medical card. Easy answer, the 2nd person.
      The one problem with the way this has been done is it just looks at income, each person should be looked at how much demand they have for a medical card.
      The state does not need to pay for a medical card for some one who does not need it, or that their medical needs does not affect their standard of living.
      All types of state payments should be looked at this way. The people who need it the most should get it. Why should the state give money to people who can well afford to pay for it themselves.
      And lastly, if the situation changes for the 1st person, in that their medical needs grow greater then they can afford, they should be able to avail of the medical card.
      Thanks for reading this, best of luck.

    3. As a widow it now appears that I will lose my medical card although I would have been below the threshold if my husband was living. The allowance for couples is double that of a single person, despite that both have the same outlay on house maintenance – heating, lighting, refuse charges etc. There used to be an old saying “two can live as cheaply as one” and it certainly is true. Now, I have just been informed by my pension provider that I will be liable for the 1% income levy on income over €20,000 if I no longer hold a medical card. Is there a war on single senior citizens – as if life isn’t hard enough for us!

    4. I hear to-day that the Government are putting a Bill through the Dail and Senate to cut 20,000 people from the free medical cards for persons over 70. They say that they are doing this by imposing a cut-off point of €72,000 for qualification. This is a downright lie. I am told that 12,000 retired primary teachers will probably lose their medical cards if this figure of money is insisted on. What if retired secondary teachers and vocational teachers who will lose their medical cards because of the same reason are added to the primary school figure of 12,000, teachers alone will account for more than the figure of 20,000 quoted by the Minister of Health, Mary Harney. Factor into this figure retired Gardai, Civil Servants, and Local Authority Employees who will lose their medical cards for possibly also having a partner with a pension and that figure will rise alarmingly.

      Retired teachers regard themselves as having adequate to comfortable pensions – no incomes comparable to the super-rich with whom they are being compared.

      Means tests are never fair. They have always proved unfair to the PAYE class of workers. The type of people abovementioned were PAYE workers and always lost out with means tests. Surely they will not accept another imposition of means tests in their old age?

      We need guidance about what we should do when we are presented with these means test forms. We need further meetings to protest at the way we are being treated in the autumn of our lives. I hope that the Senior Citizens Parliament and Age Action groups spring into action again and lead us to defeat this second attempt to abolish our medical cards.

    5. I agree 100% with the remark you can judge a society by the way it treats the vunerable, it is an insult to treat our elderly in this manner, and I think this scaremongering about how having a larger elderly population will destroy the economy over the next few years blah blah. Tax the rich and cut the earnings of our government they dont seem to deserve to be paid to try some of the laughable tactics they are pulling on our old people and students at the moment. How come other countries can make universal free health care and third level education systems work without ruining their countries ablity to function. I think Irish people are starting to just sit back and expect the worst from our consistant sneaky and corrupt elected officals, we moan about how we disagree with their decisions yet sit back and adapt to them, why dont they take note we voted no to lisbon and the majority of people seem to want the decision they have made on medical cards to be abolished.

    6. The Government should start with a higher rate of tax for those earing more than E200,000 a year before removing the likes of medical cards to some of the most vunerable in our society.

    7. What a shameful government. Neither planning abilities nor respect for senior citizens. Let them hang there heads in shame.
      We will not forget them at next polling day.

    8. What a shame and what a shambles!! And now insult is being added to injury by talk of former civil servants’ pensions being cross-checked with the Paymaster General. Even in this country, older people are entitled to the same protection under Data Protection legislation as the rest of the population!!

    9. I am enraged with the governments decision..A little imagination would source the funds for this scheme elsewhere..eg.if gps,prescribe generic drugs…

    10. We judge our society by how it treats it’s most vulnerable, this mean spirited attack on one of the most vulnerable groups in our society speaks volumes about the priorities of the FF/Greens and Independents.

    11. Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding the withdrawal of the medical card for over 70’s.

      It is a disgrace that the Government is looking to our old age pensioners to make €100 million savings on the health budget by abolishing the automatic entitlement of the over 70’s to medical cards. For a long time we have had a two-tier health service.

      This Budget decision will effectively give our pensioners a four-tier health system: some over 70’s will have medical cards, others will have GP cards, some will receive the €400 grant while others will get nothing at all.

      There is genuine fear, anger and utter confusion everywhere.

      The re-introduction of the means test for medical cards for over 70’s has to go down as one of the most cynical political stunts we have seen in quite some time, having been removed a year before one election, only to be re-introduced a year after another one.

      Because of public outrage the Government has already made some changes to their initial budget proposals. However we will continue to fight for the principle of automatic entitlement of people over 70 to medical cards.

      It has already been pointed out that the financial institutions are being bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of the €480 billion guarantee and that the Government is only charging the financial institutions €1 billion. This is a miniscule amount.

      If the Government were to even increase their charge on the banks to €1.1 billion there would be no need to take away the right of the over 70’s to the medical card.

      I will be raising these issues in the Dail this week when the Budget debate continues. The Labour Party will continue to oppose this awful budget.

      Yours sincerely,


    12. Charles Haughey must be laughing to see that his way
      of life has not been halted with Brian Lenihan using
      the same call to patrioism when attacking the vulnerable and Mary Harney, the last member of the
      party founded to counter Haughey actually taking up
      his methods. They will not feel the recession personally. If they really wanted a fair system they would increase taxes on their wealthy circle and use the proceeds tp provide proper medical care as is provided in all other developed european countries. In that way it would not matter if wealthy people had medical cards as they would have paid much more in extra tax than the card benefit to them. It’s all
      a smokescreen to blame the wealthy and the doctors while the real intent is to disadvantage the disadvantaged. The first duty of an elected government is to promote a fair and prosperous society and not widen class differences to the benefit of the upper classes to whom this government of ours belongs.
      If I paid the 640 euro that the doctor gets for a card as a present say on behalf of an old relative,would that person retain their card. The Government answer would be no so that gives the lie to the doctor arguement. The answer would be no because they want the hundred euro A&E fee, the increased day cost of first 10 days in hospital, payment for drugs, no provision of incontinence pads, no living aids, no community nurse etc. etc.
      the result will be older people stinking in their incontinence and afraid to seek medical care for illnesses in time and dying on trollies in overcrowded hospitals with the final indignity of
      being a burden on friends and relatives. I have been there with family members and I am willing to pay more tax rather than inflict this travesty on people I don’t even know.

    13. The North Leitrim Active Age are in solidarity with the Irish Seniors citizins Parliment and agree with all the sentiments spoken and will be at the rally in spirit if not in person. We abhor the desision and the clumsbly way the government are trying to row back.Why dont they admit they didnt think this out and scrap it.

    14. There are 350,084 people over 70 who have Medical Cards -just 8.07% of the total population. The Medical card has been responsible for improving the health of Older People and reducing the percentage of the population in Long-Term Care. This group of people did not gain from Celtic Tiger but laid the foundation for it and this is now their reward

      This step has broken faith with promises made to Older People

    15. Incurring a cost of €654 for the State to provide a medical card for a ex-State employee who has a €30k pension and €50k worth of savings is not without consequences.

      It means that someone under the age of 70, whose medical needs may be greater, and means fewer, won’t get one.

      Nobody who is over 70 should be prevented seeking medical care because of concerns about finances, but the current scheme was not set up correctly and is unsustainable.

      GP practices in affluent areas are benefitting disproportinately from the scheme, while practices in low income areas suffer, and the cost of the scheme will increase exponentially over the coming years.

      It is not the fault of older people that this scheme was set up in such a ham-fisted way, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it.

      Universality is not the answer. Efficient and equitable use of resources is.

    16. The medical cards should be means tested. Those that can afford to pay should not receive subsistance from the State. A net income threshold of €650 per week for assistance is pretty high, it’s more than the average worker earns. If we continue this reckless un-thoughout support of the over 70s in an ageing population, we will bankrupt the State. It is important also to stress that those living from the full state pension will retain their medical cards. Those who earn 50% more will have a GP medical card. These income limits are AFTER medical expenses and other living costs are deducted.

      Where is the equity & justice in giving State medical assistance to a certain age group of society when other age groups earning the samem, with children and mortgages to support, receive nothing?

      There is mass pity for the elderly, but we need to think with our brains and not our hearts.

    17. The government should not target the vulnerable members of our society for the mistakes of banking sector. The banking sector must carry the can long into the future, not children, elderly or tax payers. Financial sector pay should be reduced and profits limited until we trade out of the current situation.The Government must Reverse the NOW and stop worrying older people.

    18. I am part of a voluntary group doing what we can to enrich the lives of older people in our community. These people deserve this at their time of life. I can only say bewilderment and worry was what was shown by these seniors after this cruel budget decision targeted at them. I hope the country rallies together in support of our older people retaining their medicals cards.

    19. this decision should be reversed immediately as i believe it cannot be legally enforced it is a serious insult to the elderly people who paid paye and tax all their lives

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