If you have a medical card each prescription item you need will now cost you €2.50 up to a ceiling of €25 a month per household. If you are seventy or over and have an income of €500 a week, or €900 a week if you are a couple, you will lose your full medical card and have to pay for prescriptions, up to the monthly ceiling of €144. This measure will affect 35,000 older people. If you have private medical insurance your tax relief on this will be capped at €1000 per adult and at €500 per child. This change, portrayed by the Finance Minister as one which would affect those with ‘gold plated’ policies the most, will actually cause more than 577,000 people to bear a loss of at least €40. And lastly, the move to limit medical card cover for people who get a job to the GP Visit card only for three years, instead of a full medical card, cannot be viewed as a pro work approach. Having a full medical card entitles people to help with school books and exempts them from paying the State school exam fees and school transport charges which are expensive items for a family on a low income. 22,000 people are thought to be affected by this move.
So what’s left for the rest of us between aged over 5 and under 70 years?
We can look forward to more explicit rationing of public health services - €666 million will need to be cut from 2014 health spending. We know it is serious when the CEO of the Health Executive Service goes on record to tell us how harsh a year 2014 will be for health spending given that they intend to cut 1,000 more jobs.
We can look forward with uncertainty and fear to the ‘probity’ review of medical cards which promises a saving of €113 million and which so far no one has been able to explain.
As for the toll all this is taking on our mental health - only €20 million is allocated for improving community adult and children mental health teams in 2014, instead of the previously agreed €35 million. Child and adolescent mental health teams are not all functioning with sufficient staff to provide an adequate and appropriate service to those who need this critical service which is a cause for huge concern.
Something tells us that the stark link between low income and poor health looks sets to continue.
Read our full Budget 2014 analysis