I mentioned yesterday that I'd take a look at a counter factual where instead of abolishing income as a factor for the allocation of medical cards to those over 70 that the minister of finance had simply continued to aggressively extend the income threshold.
In 1999 the income thresholds for medical cards even for the over 70s were much lower than they are now. Of course, governments had considerably less revenue in those days before the Celtic Tiger and also had more outgoings in respect of unemployment etc. The thresholds were subsequently increased as per a budgetary commitment by roughly 33% each year until March of 2001. In Budget 2000 McCreevy announced that the next and final step would be to remove the income threshold completely for those over 70. Yet what if he had persisted with his original measure?
Taking the lower of those over 70 figures for 1999 of £133.00 which equates to €168.87 as our base point we see the intended increase of 33% or €55.72 per year in the threshold would have been up to €337.74 in March 2001. Note this is more than the initial revised threshold from last week! And it’s the figure from 7 years ago. So had Charlie McCreevy continued with the same level of increase annually (not % wise but in flat cash terms) the threshold would have been
March 2001 €337.74 (this is double the initial 1999 figure)
March 2002 €393.46
March 2003 €449.18
March 2004 €504.90
March 2005 €560.62
March 2006 €616.34
March 2007 €672.06
March 2008 €727.78
So think about that for a moment, the income threshold would now be higher than that most recent ‘final proposal’ of €700 per week gross to come from the government on Tuesday of this week. Plus, it wouldn’t have involved any re-negotiation with the IMO and consequent explosion in the cuts of the scheme which apparently cost us €254 million last year. Just imagine for a moment what else we could have done with the billion plus Euros over the last 6/7 years? How many more children in lower income families we could have offered medical cards to in that time or funding for nursing home care?
What am I saying sure they didn’t know what to do with the billions for Euros they did have so given them more would have only have lead to throwing good money after bad.
*Figures as from a Cork/Irish Examiner (it's TCM anyway) article in 1999
Medical card means test thresholds:
Up to 66, 66 to 69, 70 to 79*, Over 80*.
Single - living alone: £92.00, £100.00, £133.00, £140.00
Single - living with family: £81.50, £86.50, £115.00, £120.00.
Married couple: £133.00, £149.00, £198.50, £208.50.
Allowance for child under 16: £16.00.
Allowance for other dependants: £17.50.
Allowances for outgoings on house:
Excess over £16.00 a week
Reasonable expenses necessarily incurred in travelling to work
Excess over £14.50 a week
* These are the thresholds likely to apply from March 1, 1999.