Friday 24 November 2017

Free GP care for under-5s would cost little but help an awful lot

Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

WHEN three of your children come down with the measles in quick succession, the monthly budget is going to take a hammering.

It's a source of shame that the first thought of many parents as we haul our spotty tribe into the GP's surgery, is one of cost and not care.

For families without medical card entitlement, the €50 fee can multiply quicker than a particular virulent form of the winter vomiting bug.

When sickness strikes, parents are already grappling with childcare, organising leave from work, not to mention the illness itself.

The stresses of mounting GP bills only add insult to injury.

Cynics suggest that free medical care for the youngest members of society is a luxury we can ill afford. But many other nations would blink, incredulous, at a system that can effectively make a child's health hostage to the contents of parents' wallets.

There is the old chestnut that the rich can afford to pay for their children's health care, whereas the less fortunate have medical cards to look after their needs.

And there are very few parents who would truly neglect the health of a sick child in order to scrimp and save.

But thousands of middle-class families, while above the threshold for medical cards, are being squeezed from all directions.

Worrying statistics suggest that children in households who have access to free GP care and drugs are seeing their doctor twice as often.

Free GP care for the under-5s would cost relatively little in the grand scheme of a Budget that will bring in €2.5bn in cuts and taxes. This should not be seen as a luxury item.

From a Government that promised free GP care for all, it is merely a start.

Irish Independent

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