LABOUR TD Ciarán Lynch today welcomed the progress being made in addressing the delays in processing medical card reviews. The issue of anomalies in the process were also raised and addressed by the Minister of State for Health, Roisin Shortall.
“I raised the issue of delays in the processing of medical cards and medical card reviews with the Minister Shortall in the Dáil today. I had raised the issue with the Minister in February and was looking for an update on the progress that had been made since I raised the issue last.
“I explained to the Minister that while it is has been obvious to my office that the processing of applications by the Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme (PCRS) has improved in recent months, a number of anomalies in the system were still apparent. For instance, in cases where additional information is sought by the PCRS, the processing of this additional information is taking an inordinately long time. Not only this, but on a number of occasions the additional information was requested and submitted more than once.
“I explained that in one particular case, an applicant submitted evidence of a home improvement loan that was obtained to install a new heating system. The heating system was necessary due to the medical condition of the spouse. It took nearly a month to review the evidence which was then rejected as the loan was obtained from the gas company. If the same loan had been obtained from the Credit Union however, the evidence of a home loan would have qualified.
“The same applicant was requested to submit further information in relation to proof of income. Fifteen days later however the promised review had not been completed. This is yet another anomaly where, as stated on the HSE website, medical applications can be processed in 15 days, yet it appears a simple review cannot.
“While I commend the improvements already made, more is needed to be done to help the applicants such as the one mentioned as they urgently need the benefit of a full medical card and they have been put through a stressful and long drawn out process in order to get what they are entitled to.
“After raising these issues with the Minister, I was encouraged to learn that the anomalies I raised are indeed being addressed by Minister Shortall. The Minister explained that the centralisation of the medical card process has been completed. Now, for the first time ever, a single uniform system of application processing is in place. The Minister explained that in this stream lining exercise a number of difficulties such as the ones I mentioned had arisen, including backlogs, poor communication and work practices.
“The Minister however has been working closely with the HSE and a range of measure have been introduced that will address all these issues. For example, staffing levels and renewal assessments have been increased, as well as the fast-tracking of cases where information has been misfiled. The Minister is also ensuring that the entitlements of applicants engaged in the review process are not withdrawn before the review process is complete.
“I would like to commend the Minister on the work she has done in the short few months since I first raised this issue. While some anomalies still exist, these are being addressed. In fact, a backlog of 58,000 applications from last year has been completely cleared. Not only this, but 90% of complete applications are processed within 15 working days. This is no nominal feat as up to 50,000 applications are received each month.
“I am encouraged that the Minster is already aware of the issues raised and is working hard to improve the quality of services provided to the public. I will continue to monitor the situation and have no doubt more improvements will be made in the coming months.”