Almost Two Thirds of Discretionary Medical Cards for People with Arthritis Taken Away or Under Review

Arthritis Ireland Calls on Government to Make Good on Pre-Election Promises to Resolve Issue

Arthritis Ireland is today expressing its deep concern at the number of people with people with arthritisarthritis who have lost their discretionary medical cards in recent months. In a new survey, conducted by the charity, 60% of people with arthritis who have or had discretionary medical cards admitted they had been taken away or placed under review.

The charity is now calling on the Government to make good on their pre-election promises and take action to resolve this ongoing scandal. It is also urging the HSE to ensure arthritis patients on expensive treatments, such as high-tech biologic therapies, are given medicals cards straight away.

In a survey, conducted over the weekend, of 1,200 people with arthritis:

  • A quarter (23%) said they have/had a discretionary medical card
  • Almost two thirds (60%) of those admitted it had been either taken away or put under review
  • Of these, 69% have had their card taken away or placed under review in the last 6 months
  • It is an issue of even greater concern for children living with juvenile arthritis as 76% of parents said their discretionary cards had been taken away or placed under review

This is resulting in added financial pressure and distress on a group of people who are already living day-to-day in severe pain. Below is just a selection of people’s responses when asked, “What does having the medical card taken away mean for you?”

“Have not been able to afford medication and have not had my Enbrel (medication) since February.”

“I am very upset and it is causing me a lot of stress and I will not be able to afford to pay for meds and pay for doctor and I am going into hospital for another knee replacement on 18th of June and am so worried about the operation .I should not have this stress as well.”

“It’s been 3 months now and I’ve called every 2 weeks and still no decision. Without my medical card, I won’t be able to afford the monthly infusions or daily meds I need to function on a daily basis…I’m so worried as without my medical card I won’t get the treatment I need and will end up completely disabled.”

Arthritis is the single biggest cause of disability in Ireland, affecting almost one million people from newborn babies through to the elderly. There is no cure so regular medical treatment is vital to keep the condition in check to prevent permanent joint damage and disability.

Arthritis Ireland CEO, John Church, said: “Although the Government has stated that there is no policy to cut discretionary medical cards, the results of our survey suggest otherwise.

“People with arthritis already face significant challenges living day-to-day with the severe pain and fatigue of arthritis and it is inhumane to place them under further financial hardship and distress by taking away their medical cards.

“We are particularly concerned for families of children with juvenile arthritis as more than three quarters have had their cards placed under review or taken away. Parents are already facing totally unacceptable waiting list times of over 18 months to see a rheumatologist, despite the guidelines recommending a maximum of 4-6 weeks. 

“We are now calling on the HSE to ensure that all people with arthritis who require high cost treatments are given access to a medical card.” 

Arthritis Ireland has a full breakdown here of what people with arthritis need to do in the event of their medical card being taken away or placed under review. The charity’s National Helpline (1890 252 846) is also there to help people who are experiencing difficulties with their medical cards.