Friday, October 17, 2008

Medical cards

In the budget this week the government decided to scrap automatic medical cards for over 70s leaving around 100,000 people wondering where they will get the money to go to the doctor. Some GPs charge €60 a visit never mind prescriptions or other medicines like say the flu vaccine, which cost my girlfriend €35 during a recent visit to her GP. So imagine if you were 70 years old retired, trying to scrape together enough money to buy food, pay the increased ESB and gas bills, then save a little money to buy Christmas presents for the grand kids and not doing anything fancy like foreign holidays. Just gettin by in Ireland today. €95 would be a good chunk out of your weekly income of say €241 which would put you over the limits.

Being over 70 there is a reasonable chance you may need to go to the doctor more than your average working age person and probably need some more medication as well. Suddenly basic health care is something you have to weigh up against lights and food. Is that pain in your arm that bad? Maybe those dizzy spells are just a bit of a bug that will pass. That lump you think you feel in your breast, probably just a benign cyst. Is it worth the money just to have peace of mind?
Some people will say the country cant afford to pay for all the little luxuries like medical cards for rich old people. But many people who will loose their medical cards are not rich, not by any means. Even if they have a little nest egg, they worked their whole lives so that they might have a little comfort in their old age. Many paid 66% income tax back in the bad old days of pre celtic tiger Ireland. Have they not paid for their medical cards? If their visits to doctors are too expensive then perhaps we should ask why doctors are so expensive and not why old people need to see doctors.

The cynic in me wonders if the government decided to target 70 years olds in the belief that they would be too weak to protest outside the Dail on a cold October day and that many of them wouldn't make it to the next election in 4 years anyway so who cares about their votes.

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