At the last census there were just 0ver 356000 children aged under 5 in Ireland.
The Budget 2014 announcment to give GP visit cards to all under 5s has been in the pipeline for a few months now – it is the first stage in the government’s plan to give everyone free GP care.
Legislation is required and it hasn’t been fully agreed with the doctors yet – and there could still be problems concerning payment levels and contracts.
Currently a GP gets about €73 a year for each child on their “books” who has a medical card or GP visit card. They also get several other payments for all the various vaccinations/immunisations regardless of the medical card status of the child.
The loss of the private fee of as much as €50 a visit may not be too popular with GP’s – but then again they will get a steady annual income for each child under 5 even if they never see them.
An ESRI study in 2012 found that babies at the crucial age of nine months who did not have medical cards had just three-quarters of the number of annual GP visits as babies with medical cards. This was more than likely due to financial reasons.
It was estimated in 2009 that about one third of all children were covered by medical cards. There are currently just under 2 million people covered by medical cards or GP visit cards in Ireland. So – there are probably about 120000 children covered by those cards. That means that about 240,000 children will now be able to see a GP for free for the first time.
The less well off families who are already covered by medical cards will not benefit from this Budget 2014 change.
But – it will be good news to those “middle income” families who are just over the income limit for a medical card or GP visit card. They will no longer worry about having to pay €50 to bring their sick children to a GP.
Of course – it also means that the very well off will also get free GP visits for their under fives. Some people are saying this is not “fair” – but maybe anyone saying that should think of how much income tax those wealthier families have paid to the state. Why shouldn’t they get free GP visits too?