Free GP care for over 70s to be introduced

Wednesday 09 July 2014 23.41
The Programme for Government promises free GP care for all by 2016
The Programme for Government promises free GP care for all by 2016

The provision of free GP care to people over 70 is due to be introduced this year, at a cost of around €7.5m in 2014.

Around 40,000 people over 70, who do not have a medical card or a GP visit card, or who could loose their card on a means test now, are set to benefit.

The full year cost of the plan is around €15m. 

It is understood the entitlement is addressed in the joint document agreed by Mr Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton in their ongoing talks, and will be implemented over the remaining lifetime of the Government. 

The Programme for Government promises free GP care for all by 2016.

Currently medical cards and GP-only cards are means-tested for those over 70.

Mr Kenny said the Government was considering a number of options for the roll-out of primary care services for different categories, including people over 70.

The Taoiseach was responding to questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who asked about the proposed Universal Primary Care Act during the Order of Business.

Mr Martin said 35,000 people over 70 had lost medical cards due to revised income guidelines introduced in the last Budget.

The Irish Medical Organisation has claimed that Government policy in relation to GP services is in complete disarray.

The IMO said that family doctors were trying to cope with increasing workloads and decreased funding.

Dr Ray Walley, chairman of the IMO's GP committee, said that priority must be given to providing services to those most in need.

Doctors have already expressed opposition to plans to provide free GP care to the under sixes.

The union said it was concerned at the "casual way" the latest measure was announced.

It added that the Government was using free GP visit cards as an alternative to medical cards, when the two were not comparable.

The union is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister for Health James Reilly.