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Budget 2023 and Health: Abolition of inpatient charges and 420,000 more GP visit cards

The Irish Medical Organisation criticised Budget proposals to expand the number of people who will become eligible for 'free’ GP care

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GP visit cards will be extended to an additional 420,000 people through a relaxation of the means test. Photo: Stock image

GP visit cards will be extended to an additional 420,000 people through a relaxation of the means test. Photo: Stock image

GP visit cards will be extended to an additional 420,000 people through a relaxation of the means test. Photo: Stock image

The health service featured high on the agenda in today’s Budget. Included in some of the big-ticket giveaways is abolishing inpatient hospital charges.

As well as that, GP visit cards will be extended to an additional 420,000 people through a relaxation of the means test.

For the first time, funding of IVF treatment will be introduced on a phased basis from next year following legislation to regulate fertility clinics.

Free contraception, which began for 17 to 25-year-olds in recent weeks, will be expanded to include 16- to 30-year-olds.

And the backlog of hospital waiting lists as well as other delays in areas of disability will get a package of €443m.

Here are some of the headline announcements – and the unknowns.

Abolishing hospital inpatient health charges for adults

This is expected to come into force in April and spare people without a medical card or health insurance €80 a day – up to a maximum of €800.

It was welcomed today by the Irish Cancer Society which said it will be a huge help for patients at a tough time financially.

Each time a patient without a medical card attends hospital for treatment they are currently charged €80 per visit, up to an annual cap of €800.

It said it was a ”momentous announcement”.

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However, the downside is it will cost hospitals lost revenue of at least €360m. It is still unclear how this will be paid back.

Extension of GP visit cards to 420,000 more people

This will save people up to €70 a visit but will not include the cost of free medicines.

But already the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) strongly criticised Budget proposals to dramatically expand the number of people who will become eligible for “free” GP care.

The IMO has described the initiative as ill-conceived and poorly planned in the context of current capacity, workload and workforce numbers.

GPs, the organisation has warned, will not be able to cope with the consequences of this proposal.

The extension of free GP care to children aged six and seven, announced in last year’s Budget, has yet to be implemented but is promised before the end of the year.

Publicly funded IVF treatment next year on a “phased basis”

This is still quite vague and is expected to be limited to start with.

Legislation to regulate fertility clinics still needs to be passed in advance. But any step towards funding expensive fertility treatments which cost around €4,500 to start with will be welcomed.

€443m package to tackle waiting lists

This will be targeted at the ongoing crisis in hospital waiting lists, with record numbers waiting for an outpatient appointment.

It will expand access to diagnostics. But this year’s €350m fund will not meet targets.

Next year’s funding will also go towards fighting delays for assessment of need for families with a child with a disability.

Vat removed from defibrillators

This should allow more communities and organisations to invest in these life-saving devices for people who suffer a cardiac arrest.

A catch-up programme for HPV (human papillomavirus)

Vaccinations for boys and girls in secondary school, and for women up to the age of 25 who may have missed vaccinations.

The vaccine, along with screening for women, is seen as key in reducing cervical cancer rates.

Funding of €138m to strengthen disability services

This will be done through the provision of additional respite, day service and residential places in line with the disability capacity review

There will also be €150m for older people, including €18m in new measures for the Age Friendly Home Programme to support older people living at home. 

Additionally, there will be the development of a national dementia strategy, as well as support for the introduction of a new adult safeguarding policy

Increase of €58m for mental health

This incorporates €14m to continue the increased provision of emergency placements within mental health, with further funding to ensure continued progress towards Sharing the Vision objectives.

However, the problems of Ireland’s mental health service go beyond this. 

The CAMHS service for young people, in particular, is in need of more staff. There is also a major problem with the state of repair of several public psychiatric units.

Covid-19 – another €439m allocation

The pandemic is not over and Covid-19 infections will rise again this winter, although the extent of the surge is still unclear.

Regardless, it will absorb much public funding in areas of testing, PPE and vaccinations.

Oral healthcare

Another €5m has been provided in additional funding for oral health services on a recurring basis. There will also be a once-off provision this year of €9m within the overall waiting-list fund to address oral health backlogs.

Hospital running costs

There will be €100m in supports to meet rising energy bills, which will benefit hospitals and other facilities such as hospices.


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