Diabetes to be listed on ‘yellow’ card
by Daniela Xuereb (Malta Independent)
Diabetes, an illness currently listed on the ‘pink’ card for the provision of free medical treatment, is expected to be transferred to the ‘yellow’ card as part of the government’s reform in the health service.
Diabetics automatically qualify for the pink card which entitles them to free medical treatment at St Luke’s. Those in the low income bracket, the unemployed, single parents, pensioners and others qualify for the pink card.
The yellow card entitles people suffering from chronic illness to free medication irrespective of their financial income. Health Minister Dr Louis Deguara told The Malta Independent on Sunday the move from the pink card to the yellow card will mean diabetes will no longer ‘automatically’ qualify for free medication – now a means test (for both the pink and the yellow card) will have to be taken.
Dr Deguara was speaking a few days after the Minister for Finance John Dalli delivered his budget speech. Mr Dalli said as part of the reform in the health service the pink card will be retained and free medicines will continue to be given, but where it is really needed.
Mr Dalli said there will be a major revision on the use of the yellow card where a means test will be introduced that will be flexible to various conditions.
“The means tests will be established after it is discussed with the social policy sectors. The government says there should be a means test for holders of the yellow and the pink card, and they should be different because the parameters are completely different,” said Dr Deguara.
“There are around 80,000 people who use the yellow card. Because of a ‘fault’ in the law, a person who earns more than Lm15,000 and more a year gets free medical treatment including bandages, pain killers and other items for free. This does not make sense.”
The current system, said Dr Deguara is causing inequity. In 1996 Lm2.5 million were spent on medicine and surgical items for holders of the pink card. “Eight years later it is costing the government Lm2.8 million, which is reasonable. The larger expense is the yellow card – those who receive free medicine without a means test.”
Dr Deguara said according to the means tests the distribution of medicine no longer respects the concept of solidarity.
“This reform is not about saving money, we need to balance the cost of medicine between those who are entitled because they have been means tested and those who were not means tested. There is a gross imbalance,” said Dr Deguara. “Those who are means tested for the pink card take about Lm3 million while those who are not taking the means test for the yellow card are taking Lm7 to Lm8 million. The problem is that the latter number is constantly increasing while the former have remained the same for the past