Free care scheme to pay doctors €75 per child under six
DOCTORS are expected to be paid annual capitation rates of around €75 for each child under six who will be entitled to free GP care under the Government's plan.
The state fee, which is paid regardless of how many times the child visits the surgery in a year, or whether they avail of the service, is expected to be roughly in line with what the GP currently receives for a patient this age under the medical card scheme.
Doctors now get €75 a year for young children and €43 for five-year olds, with an extra 10pc also being paid by the HSE towards a special pension for the doctor.
Under the Government's new plan announced on Budget day, around 240,000 children under six will be entitled to the free GP care. The more medical card patients a GP has on their books, the more it benefits the pension they are entitled to under the scheme.
This private pension scheme is administered on behalf of GPs by the Irish Medical Organisation, the doctors union.
Health Minister James Reilly has already signalled that the GPs are likely to receive pay rates which are more or less in line with what they are currently getting under the medical card scheme.
He told a recent Oireachtas Committee on Health meeting that there will be consultation rather than negotiation with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) on the new contract covering the free care.
"It will be consultation, because under competition law the IMO is prohibited from negotiating."
He added that any GP worth their salt knows the value of children to the practice and continuity of care.
"I cannot see them refusing these patients. They have no reason to refuse them because the pay on offer is what is currently available," he said.
While parents will not be asked to pay the doctor any fee for the under-6s, Junior Health Minister Alex White has indicated that adults are to be asked to pay a nominal sum when free GP care is extended.
Fianna Fail spokesman on health Billy Kelleher called on Dr Reilly to further clarify if he intends to introduce new charges for the Government's 'free' GP care scheme.
He added: "Minister White's comment this morning that the issue of charging the public for 'free' GP care was 'blue sky thinking' at the Labour Party conference is very worrying.
"We've been hearing for months now that the Government's plans on free GP care were well advanced.
"If we're still at the stage where a key element of the entire strategy is being subjected to 'blue sky thinking' at a political party event, these claims from Government have clearly been misleading."