Changes to medical card threshold have not gone far enough, says pensioner

A pensioner has claimed that the Government’s changes to the medical card threshold have not gone far enough and has disputed the number of people who are set to benefit.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced in his Budget on Tuesday that the threshold for medical card income for people over the age of 70 will increase by 50 euro for one person or 150 euro for a couple.

It was claimed that it will benefit up to 56,000 people.

Pensioner Grainne Kenny, however, has challenged that claim, saying the changes to the living alone allowance will push more people outside the threshold.

The living alone allowance will increase by five euro while fuel allowance is set to jump by two euro a week.

There is no extra five euro for pensioners, despite calls from charities to raise the state pension by seven euro.

Ms Kenny, who lives in Dun Laoghaire, had to fight for her medical card after she was diagnosed with glaucoma.

The mother of three, who is in her eighties, also suffers from arthritis and respiratory issues.

“Medical cards are a lifeline and we cannot rise to the challenge of private healthcare,” she said.

“In 2013, the threshold was around 700 euro but then in 2018 it was reduced to 500 euro.

“The least I would expect is the Government to revert it back to the 700 euro gross income. Paschal hasn’t done us any favours.

“I don’t understand where they get the figure of 56,000 people who will benefit from it – the minister should produce those figures. I don’t believe that’s the truth and it should be challenged.

“People who are on two pensions who fall inside the bracket of medical cards are pushed back out of it if they are living alone because of the increase to living alone allowance.

“I welcome the reduction of the prescription charges as I get a lot of medication.”

Among the Budget changes was the announcement that there will be one million additional home care hours provided next year.

Pensioner Don Smyth
Don Smyth (Liam McBurney/PA)

Don Smyth, a father of one who lives in Ranelagh, welcomed the increase as he has been fighting for home care for more than two years.

The 82-year-old, who uses the services of charity Alone, said it will be a great advantage.

“I asked for home care for two hours a week and was refused and have been refused three times since then,” he said.

“I have been told to keep trying but it’s about time I get help.”

He also welcomed the reduction in prescription charges as he takes around 10 drugs a day.

He added: “The prescription charges are down 50 cents so that will help me and I am pleased to see the threshold increase for over-70s who can now get access to a medical card.

“I am happy to hear that I will get a Christmas bonus and I also welcome the living alone allowance will increase by five euro and fuel allowance will go up by two euro a week, but that’s hardly noticeable.

“Overall, it’s a sensible Budget.”

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