Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher TD says the Health Minister is abolishing the idea of free GP care for the under 6s and over 70s before it has even begun. Reports today suggest that the Department of Public Expenditure has sought a “co-payment” to raise revenue and cut the budget deficit. This would see doctors charging a “nominal fee” to patients when free GP care is introduced next year.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “The idea that the Government plans to charge people for free doctor’s visits is not only ridiculous, it flies in the face of promises made in the Programme for Government, and is a further move away from its commitments on universal primary care. Only last year, then Health Minister James Reilly vowed that free GP care would be “free-full stop”, but it appears as if his successor is about to renege on that commitment.
“The fact that the Minister is considering this charge for GP services is a clear indication that he is not fully wedded to his Government’s original policy and it raises questions about whether he intends to honour the Programme for Government commitments on free GP care.
“I am also worried about the level of fees proposed. While the initial charge appears marginal, the addition of administration fees and other costs could see it creep up and this Government’s track record on hiking up fees will do nothing to calm concerns. Over the last three and a half years, we’ve seen prescription fees increase five-fold, despite promises to abolish them. If the Minister presses ahead with these “nominal fees” it would make a mockery of the concept of free GP care.
“Minister Varadkar needs to set the record straight and outline whether he plans to bow from pressure from the Department of Public Expenditure and impose charges for the under 6s and over 70s under the free GP scheme”.