Friday 21 October 2016

Miracle cash cure needed for scheme to succeed

Published 03/06/2014 | 02:30

THE Government will need a miracle cure of the financial kind if it is to meet its promise to have free GP care for all by 2016.

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Even if it can come up with the figure of €332m – the annual cost of the measure – it is facing into a set of huge obstacles which could derail the plan.

Central to delivering on free GP visits will be the agreement of the doctors themselves – and direct talks have not even begun yet with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).

The doctors want talks not just on the contract they will be asked to sign giving free GP care to under-sixes later this year but on the wider medical card and other health schemes.

This will inevitably mean demands for higher fees and more investment by the State in general practice to allow the doctors to employ enough staff and expand on their services.

That sum of €332m could soon look very inadequate and the entire free scheme could flounder if a majority of GPs do not to sign up.

Money will also have to be found in the autumn Budget to fund the new-style discretionary medical cards for people with a severe disability or serious illness.

The expert group which will be asked to draw up a range of medical conditions covered under this card will have to do a detailed costing exercise.

The change in policy for discretionary cards, moving from a means test to eligibility on medical grounds, was unforeseen and is a direct response to the public anger at the treatment of very vulnerable people who lost the benefit.

It is yet another complication that will have to be factored in on the road to the 2016 deadline we all thought was a bit too good to be true anyway.

Irish Independent

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