Getting sick is a costly business, with thousands of people putting off visiting their doctor simply because it costs too much.
Recent surveys have shown that a third of Irish people avoid visiting the doctor because of the cost, and that private patients are much less likely to bring their children to the GP than those on medical cards who don't have to pay.
That's because many families simply can't afford charges of between €40 and €70 a visit.
However, a new Irish chain of GP clinics has been expanding rapidly by offering patients the chance to sign-up to a yearly plan for GP cover that means their costs are set for the year, no matter how often they visit.
GP NOW started two years ago in Sandyford but has since opened additional practices in Cork and Swords, with a fourth in Portmarnock and plans for another in Templeogue.
Individual patients pay €15 a month, or €180 a year, while a family of two adults and one child pays €30 a month, or €360 a year.
There is a €25 registration fee if you pay by monthly instalment. Each additional child costs €5 per month.
For that they get unlimited GP visits, blood tests, child inoculations, work sickness certificates if needed and an annual flu vaccination.
There is also a 10-year family membership available for €999 for two adults and three children.
GP NOW manager Owen Murphy said the service has 8,000 members and was very popular across all ages and demographics.
"We have everyone from newborns to people in their 90s – it's a totally new concept for Ireland, but it's one that appeals to a lot of people," he said.
There is no barrier to people joining because of health status, smoking or pre-existing conditions, and the service costs the same for all adults. A survey carried out this summer showed 32pc of adults had avoided a GP visit in the previous 12 months because of money concerns, while 6pc of parents couldn't afford to take a sick child to the doctor.
Other options people may look at include the stand-alone out-patient care packages for routine non-hospital medical expenses offered by most health insurers.
GloHealth has a daily care package at €156 a year for an adult and €78 per child, though it pays only €8 for each of five GP visits in a year and €30 a time for three consultant visits.
With Vhi Healthcare you can take out the HealthSteps Silver, which for €185 for an adult and €78 per child pays €25 for each of seven GP visits and €60 for each of seven consultant visits.
Aviva Health's Day to Day Me costs €204 per adult and €102 per child and pays €30 a time for three GP visits, but nothing for consultant visits.
All of these plans also provide varying cover for physiotherapy, alternative and other treatments. Some standard health insurance policies also cover a portion of routine medical expenses, although the excess – the amount you pay yourself before you can start claiming anything back – can be as high as €400.
That means patients need to compare the details and study the fine print of different plans on the Health Insurance Authority's excellent website, www.hia.ie
And don't forget each year you can also claim back tax on family medical expenses from the Revenue.