Married couple upset over ‘inequality of medical card ceiling for over 70s

A couple living on the Galway/Mayo border are upset over what they say is the inequality of the ceiling in relation to medical cards for over 70s.

The husband and wife, who wish to remain anonymous, say their medical card was a “lifeline” for them as the woman is a cancer patient who attends University Hospital Galway.

To qualify for a medical card, under current guidelines, a couple’s income ceiling is €900 (or €450 each ) weekly whereas the income limit for a single person is €500 and the income ceiling for two single people co-habiting is €1,000.

The couple, who have contacted local senator Fidelma Healy Eames to voice their concern, have a joint weekly income of €909 per week which puts them over the medical card income threshold by €9.

In a letter to the Oranmore based politician the husband asked her to raise this “inequality” with the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly.

“I am now hoping you can bring up the inequality of the ceiling in respect of the medical cards for the over 70s as it affects my wife and I directly. As it stands the joint weekly income for my wife and I in 2014 will be €909 per week. My wife is a cancer patient and attends at Galway University Hospital for treatments. The medical card is a lifeline for us.”

Senator Healy Eames says she will question Minister Reilly and the HSE on why the medical card criteria favours two single persons co-habiting over a couple.

“This is the first year that this distinction has been made against a couple - previously there was no difference between the income level required for a single person and each member of a couple. It makes no sense.

“As one older person in their 70s said to me ‘It’s not like you can share medical treatment or medication just because you are a married couple.’”

She states access to healthcare through a medical card is “precious” to older people in need, especially those with limited incomes.

“I am writing to Minister Reilly and the HSE seeking an explanation for this inequity. I will also be raising it in the Seanad. The request is one of fairness and a reasonable request. It is vital that there is a level playing field for all persons regardless of their status. Commenting further, the over 70s couple said to me: ‘A single person's ceiling is €500 per week. A couple, which I presume to be two married people living together have a ceiling of €900 per week. A non married couple have a ceiling of €1,000. This discriminates against the married couple, and on the face of it appears to be unconstitutional.’”

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