Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher has expressed concern that new Health Minister Leo Varadkar is breaking government promises on free GP care. Three years ago the government committed to Universal Primary Care, which “will remove fees for GP care and will be introduced within this Government’s term of office”. However, in an article earlier this week, Health Minister Leo Varadkar wrote that Universal GP care “means access to your GP for no fee or a nominal fee”.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “The Minister’s newspaper article this week was dominated by his decision to defer the introduction of Universal, or compulsory, Health Insurance, but buried within it was the mention of a nominal fee for GP care. This is an extremely worrying development and is in complete contrast with the commitment in the Programme for Government to provide free GP care.
“This reference to a nominal fee is a fundamental breach of trust on the part of the new Minister, and marks a departure from Government policy on the rollout of universal health care. The Government had promised to move away from a two-tier system, but the introduction of nominal fees for GP care will ensure a status quo.
“This Government has a poor track record when it comes to fees and charges. During Minister Reilly’s term in the Department of Health, he increased prescription charges five-fold, despite previously promising to abolish them. Are we to see a repeat of the situation if fees are brought in for GP care?
“Minister Varadkar has a number of questions to answer. Is it his intention to honour the Programme for Government commitment to provide free GP care? Or will there be a fee? Has the Minister of State for Primary Care been consulted on this? I am calling on the Minister to clarify the situation immediately and come clean about his plans for so-called free GP care”.