Wednesday 21 March 2018

Editorial: Free healthcare scheme needs all sides onboard

Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins
Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins

WHETHER or not one is in favour of free GP care for the under-sixes, the vast majority of people would be happy if the Department of Health and the doctors' representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), would just sit down and thrash this out. Guerrilla war, marked by spin and misinformation, has left most of us confused about the issues.

The argument against universal benefits such as this is that these are doled out regardless of income. A multi-millionaire has the same entitlements to avail of such benefits as those on quite low incomes. On the other hand, proponents, such as Health Minister Dr James Reilly, argue that it should be an entitlement of the modern State. This measure is part of a plan to introduce free GP care for all by 2016.

As it stands, there are over 400,000 under-sixes, with 180,000 already availing of free GP care through a parent's medical card or GP visit card. When the plan was rolled out, it was assumed by many that it would involve extending the existing GP visit card to this new cohort of 240,000 children. However, the minister and junior minister have insisted that all GPs will have to sign a new contract in order to access state funds for treating under-sixes.

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