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Health | Offering of medical cards for patients with life threatening illnesses

To ask the Minister for Health if he will give a personal direction to ensure that patients with life threatening illnesses are offered medical cards without incessant reviews on financial grounds or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


Eligibility for a medical card is primarily based on a financial assessment which is conducted by the HSE in accordance with the Health Act 1970 (as amended). The HSE assesses each medical card application on a qualifying financial threshold. This is the amount of money that an individual can earn a week and still qualify for a card. It is specific to the individual’s own financial circumstances.

Where individuals might be in excess of the medical card income guidelines, every effort is made by the HSE to support applicants by taking full account of the difficult circumstances, such as extra costs arising from an illness, that can arise. In such circumstances, the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card.

The HSE also has a compassionate system in place for the provision of medical cards where persons are in need of urgent ongoing medical care or when a patient is receiving end of life treatment – that is when patients’ unfortunately have a prognosis of less than 12 months. In addition, since March 2021, persons who have been certified by their treating Consultant as having a prognosis of 24 months or less are now also awarded a medical card. It is important to highlight that medical cards awarded on either end of life or terminal illness grounds are not re-assessed by the HSE, thereby providing reassurance and comfort to patients and their families. Further information can be found on the HSE’s website at

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