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Doctor visits 'free under Labour'

Doctor visits will be free under the Labour Party's six-year plan to reform healthcare, it claimed today. :

Every citizen in the country will be covered by a Universal Primary Care Insurance by 2014, it said, costing the exchequer almost 390 million euro.

The cash will be found through savings in the healthcare budget and include cutting 75 million euro from consultants' pay and saving 100 million euro on the State's drugs costs.

Labour also pledged to end the two-tier system in hospital care, so that everyone has the same access to treatment through a Universal Hospital Care Insurance system by 2016 - which will reform the Health Service Executive.

Jan O'Sullivan, spokesperson on health, said her 90-page policy document, Plan for Fair Health Care, timetables how Ireland can make a genuine shift towards primary care.

"The only way to begin to fix a broken system is to begin by incentivising people to seek treatment in the primary care sector, where delivering that care is cheaper, and where it can be more effective," she said.

"Many people do not go to the doctor when they are ill because they cannot afford GPs' fees.

"The high cost of attending a GP pushes too many people towards treatment in the acute hospital system or makes them defer seeking care until their needs are acute."

If elected, Labour plans to abolish the prescription charge for medical holders and expand community care.

Ms O'Sullivan said no one would be denied access to healthcare because of their income.

"It will be paid for much the same way as we pay for healthcare now: through Exchequer funding, and insurance premia, which are subsidised for those currently eligible for medical cards and low-income earners," she added.

PA Media