100,000 more patients expected to qualify for free GP visits from April 1
Up to 100,000 extra people may qualify to see their GP for free when changes in income limits announced by the Budget kick in on April 1.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris said other measures, including the reduction in the medical card prescription charge for over-70s from €2 to €1.50, will also come into effect.
And private patients with large medicine bills will also see the maximum they must pay every month reduced from €134 to €124.
Eligibility for a GP visit card, which allows for unlimited free visits, is means tested with different income limits depending on age and circumstances. From April 1 the weekly income limits will be increased by €25.
There are currently around 507,000 people covered by these cards which still leave people paying for medication.
Although more have GP visit cards, the number with medical cards - covering visits and medication - has dropped as more people return to work. Around 1.5 million have a medical card, down from 1.7 million.
Mr Harris said: "If you are going to the pharmacy next month, your monthly bill is going to be cheaper because if you are over 70 and are in receipt of a medical card, the amount you pay in prescription charges will actually reduce by 50c per item and if you are on the Drug Payment Scheme, you are going to see 44,000 families benefit from a €10-a-month saving.
"For 200,000 of our older citizens, they will benefit from a reduction in the prescription charge. Also, many tens of thousands of people will benefit from access to free GP care."
It is the first income change since 2006.