Independent TD Mattie McGrath has called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to assure old age pensioners that any proposed increase in the States pension contribution will not lead to disqualification of Medical Card eligibility. Deputy McGrath was speaking as his office received numerous representations from concerned pensioners that the increase, though welcome, could potentially push a significant number of them over the income threshold:
“While the meagre 71 cent per day or €5 per week increase in the pension rate would be a step in the right direction, it cannot be used as a covert means to drive down the eligibility rate for the full Medical Card.
We need urgent assurances from the Tánaiste that no such increase will lead to the disqualification of peoples Cards.
Given the choice I think most pensioners who visit my office on a daily basis would much prefer to retain the use of their Medical Card rather than receive the proposed increase.
The roll out of the free GP Visit Card for all over 70’s would certainly make it politically easier for the Government to grant the increase while cutting the numbers who can access the benefits of a full Medical Card.
That is an option that must be resisted however.
I would also call on the Minister for Health to clarify another issue which is being raised with me on a regular basis and that is the issue of some residents in nursing homes being deducted €150 a month for a so called ‘social charge’ irrespective of whether the resident can actually take part in the social activities.
All of these matters are raising genuine financial insecurity amongst our elderly population; a situation which is clearly being made worse by the lack of definite information from Government,” concluded Deputy McGrath.