Deal for free GP care for under-6s by end of June
Free GP care for children under six and pensioners over 70 will be up and running by the end of June.
The main family doctors union is expected to announce today it is signing up to a contract for the free GP care for children under six.
The Irish Medical Organisation will confirm it has completed its long-running negotiations with the HSE at its conference today in Kilkenny.
The HSE will then issue contracts for the under six service to GPs in the next three weeks.
Patient registration will begin next month with the service starting by the end of June.
The over-70s service will start at the same time, provided the required legislation is passed by the Oireachtas in time.
About 36,000 over-70s - out of a total over-70s population of 390,000 - currently pay to attend a family doctor as they are not covered by a medical card or an existing GP visit card.
Nothing will change for any over-70s who already have, or are eligible for, medical cards, as they will continue to receive all of their entitlements.
The Coalition's new deal, following the local and European elections and Tanaiste Joan Burton's succession of Eamon Gilmore as the Labour Party leader, restated the commitment to introduce free GP care for the entire population.
The Government has put the under-sixes and over-70s at the top of the queue for universal GP care.
The Health (General Practitioner Medical Service) Bill will provide for a GP service to be made available without fees to everyone over 70.
The under-sixes free GP care contract is expected to be worth around €75 per child and an additional €25 for checking weight and height each year.
The over-70s negotiations were more straightforward as it involved a smaller number of patients and there was already an agreement in place for elderly patients who already have free GP care and medical cards.