Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher TD has raised questions about the Government’s promise to provide free GP care to under 6s and over 70s. It intends to bring forward legislation on the roll out of universal GP care for the over 70s during this Dáil term, however plans to provide primary care for the under 6s remain stalled.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “Once again we have this Government making promises in an attempt to curry favour with the electorate. Less than a month after taking office Minister Leo Varadkar announced that he was all but shelving Universal/Compulsory Health Insurance but in a new turn of events has decided to revive the almost terminal plan.
“In August, he claimed that the timetable for Universal Health Insurance was “too ambitious”, but now he wants to press ahead with the roll out of free GP care for the over 70s in the next few months and has proposed legislation for this Dáil term. This is despite the fact that he has failed to get agreement from GPs over the roll out of universal care for the under 6s.
“It’s now over a year and a half since the proposals were first introduced. The programme was meant to be up and running by the autumn of 2014 but the Minister’s failure to take on board the concerns of doctors has led to a stalemate and a date for its roll out is still not forthcoming. Now Minister Varadkar is bullishly pushing ahead with legislation on universal GP care for the over 70s without having resolved the outstanding issues with the doctors.
“The very concept of The Government’s “free GP care” model must be questioned as the Minister himself has indicated that a fee per visit may be imposed. The fact that there are already plans being considered to charge people for “universal GP care” is not only paradoxical; it goes against the promises made in the Programme for Government.
“Fine Gael and Labour have a great track record of making promises they can’t keep and rowing back on measures that they committed to before getting into power. What began as universal primary care has now morphed into services with a “nominal fee”, and even at that doctors are still refusing to sign up to the scheme for the under 6s.
“The public can no longer have confidence in this Government to deliver the health service it promised. The roll of “free” GP care for the over 70s cannot be guaranteed unless the Minister works with doctors and gets them on board. Legislation alone will not secure its future, and given his performance on the issue to date, it would appear that universal GP care is some way off”.