Free GP visits for the Under 5s

The Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly, said he did “not want any parent to be in a position where they have to decide between buying the groceries and bringing their child to the doctor”, and this would be “another important step” along the road to universal health insurance. Where exactly will the money to fund this level of free care come from?

Today on the streets of Dublin found a variation in opinions on the matter as four out of five lower middle class parents of at least one child under the age of 5 agreed that this was a “great incentive”, “amazing” and “great news”. One woman stated “the doctor doesn’t do anything, most of time they just advise you give your child Calpol for 65 euro”.

A Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher pointed out; on a salary of €86,000, he can well afford to pay. This appears to be a common concern on the streets of Dublin on budget day as one woman with a young baby said that “you should have to apply for it and that it needs to be means assessed rather than given away for nothing to those who can definitely afford it”. Two pensioners interviewed today on Henry Street said that everyone should be means tested and that lower income families should be the only ones entitled.

The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) have reported concern as Kieran Ryan, CEO of the ICGP, said; “It is the policy of the ICGP to support mechanisms for provision of care where ability to pay is not a barrier.”  Image

Dr Darach O’Ciardha, GP and member of the ICGP Executive, continues in saying:  “In the current economic climate, we have to assume that if the Government is taking over the burden of paying for these services from the individual, then the money to pay for the provision of these services is coming from somewhere else in the health system. If paying for this is coming from the medical card scheme, without that pot being increased considerably, then other vulnerable groups will be affected most.  It would not be fair or reasonable that someone on a high salary, who can afford to pay for GP care for their child, would now get it for free, but that vulnerable people who need medical cards would lose them to pay for it.”

The ICGP calls on the Minister and the government to engage with GPs and other stakeholders without delay to discuss how this proposal to take over the cost of GP visits for Under 5s from the individual might work, the likely impact on population health, how much it is likely to cost and how it will be funded and how the services will be provided on the ground.

Lilah Gaafar