Wicklow Minister Simon Harris Announces New Medical Card Measures to Remove Barriers to Work for People with Disabilities

Wicklow TD Minister for Health Simon Harris this week announced a significant improvement to the medical card assessment process which will enable persons in receipt of a Disability Allowance payment to have a greater earnings capacity and still retain their medical card.

From the 1st December 2018, the medical card earnings disregard for persons in receipt of Disability Allowance will be significantly increased, from €120 to €427 per week and will apply to the assessment process for both single persons and to family assessments.

This increase of more than 250% means that the earnings of someone in receipt of Disability Allowance that can be disregarded under the medical card assessment process has increased from €6,240 a year to €22,204.

Minister Harris said “I am delighted to have overseen the implementation of one of the key recommendations of the Make Work Pay for Persons with Disabilities Report. This substantial increase in the earnings disregard will address one of the key barriers to employment for persons with a disability – that is the fear or anxiety of the loss of the medical card if an individual takes up employment or returns to work. This measure is therefore an important step to ensure that we are continually supporting persons with a disability to take up or remain in employment and be afforded every opportunity to realise their potential”.

Minister Harris was also pleased to note that another recommendation of the Report to dispense with the requirement that work be of a “rehabilitative nature” for the medical card earnings disregard purposes was implemented by the HSE in May 2017.

“An overriding objective of disability policy is to provide the person with a disability the opportunity to live a full and independent life with their family and as part of their local community. Today’s announcement supports that objective as access to paid employment is one of the greatest ways of allowing people to achieve this. I firmly believe that this objective is very important for each and every citizen of this country, and I will continue to work, as Minister, towards removing the barriers to employment for people with disabilities who wish to work.”

Also at the launch were Peter Boyd and Rachel Creevy, both of whom will benefit from the policy change. Peter is 35 – a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis ended his working life as a barman and he has gone back to college and retrained re-joining the workforce in 2017. He then started working part-time with Cricket Ireland as their Communications Officer. To date he has been careful not to exceed the existing medical card disregard as he simply could not afford to lose his medical card such are his medical needs. This change in the disregard means he can increase his hours and his earnings significantly for 2019. He feels it’s very important for people with disabilities to be allowed to make a contribution in the workforce.

Rachel Creevy is also 35, is a graduate of UCD and works as Youth Services Support Officer with IWA, Irish Wheelchair Association. She works 16 hours a week. Brittle Bones Syndrome means she is not suitable for fulltime work and her medical needs are high. Next year she was due to lose her medical card under the existing three year period of grace. “This was a huge concern”, she says, “I was going to have to give up work”.

Ms Anne Marie Hoey, HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Services, said “The HSE welcomes the increase in Medical Card earnings disregard for persons in receipt of Disability Allowance. All persons in receipt of the payment, and who do not currently have Medical Card eligibility, can apply either online at www.mymedicalcard.ie or by completing an application form.”

CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland, Senator John Dolan, welcoming today’s announcement said “This is a big step forward. Fear of losing a medical card was identified as “the single greatest barrier” to work in 2017’s inter-departmental report “Make Work Pay”. There were 24 recommendations in that report that would make work pay for people with disabilities. They all need to be implemented so that the basic human right to work can become a reality.”

This initiative will be in place in advance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3rd December, which has the theme in 2018 of “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.

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