Tuesday 25 October 2016

Health Minister on under-6s healthcare: For every one millionaire that benefits, there will be 10,000 cash-strapped parents

Published 10/04/2015 | 10:04

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar

Health Minister Varadkar said for every one millionaire that will avail of the free under-sixes healthcare, there will be ’10,000 parents on a tight budget that will benefit’.

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The minister described the move of free healthcare to all under-sixes as a ‘very significant breakthrough’ and said it was the ‘first visible step on the road to universal healthcare’.

His comments were in response to a survey that reports the majority of people would prefer the Government to give more medical cards to people on low salaries than provide free GP visits for all under-sixes.

The survey, carried out before Easter, reveals 51pc support more medical cards for the most financially hard-pressed.

Just 20pc are in favour of the plan to give free GP care to all under-sixes, regardless of how well-off their parents are.

Read more: Parents face painful choice if GPs don't sign up to deal

The findings are revealed in a poll carried out by Amarach Research, commissioned by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

However, Minister Varadkar said today that the ‘number of millionaires who will benefit from the scheme will actually be quite small’.

Speaking to RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland, he said: “The number of millionaires who have kids under six is quite small. The main beneficiaries will be young parents who get up early to work and are paying for childcare, mortgages and they often worry about the cost of getting a child to the doctor.

“For every millionaire that benefits, there will be 10,000 parents on a tight budget that will benefit from free healthcare for all kids under six, including those with medical cards.”

Read more: Free GP care for under-sixes puts everyone's health at risk

The Health Minister said negotiations will begin soon for the next phase of the universal healthcare plan and he hopes the same model is followed.

“I’ve seen this from a number of different angles, from a former GP, from a TD and now from the Minister of Health’s perspective,” Minister Varadkar said.

“My experience is that mean tests and sickness tests aren’t fair at all, they will throw up all sorts and no matter where you put the threshold there will always be someone five or ten above or below the threshold,” he continued.  

“If you’re over 70 or under six, this healthcare plan means no more mean tests. Bear in mind this is the first step.

“If this was all we were doing, I might agree with you [that it is ignoring low income earners] but it’s not.”

Minister Varadkar said the under-11s are the next age group the universal healthcare plan will target.

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