herald

Thursday 30 October 2014

Free GP care for everyone, but no mention of who will pay

HEALTH Minister James Reilly has promised free GP care for everyone from 2015 -- but there are still no details about how the State will pay for this.

The minister made the pledge of free doctor visits for all as he outlined a timeline for major health measures, including the introduction of universal heatlhcare insurance from 2016.

However, none of the promises were costed in the plans, which set out target times for implementing some 48 reforms.

Phased

Many of the elements of the Future Health: A Strategic Framework for Reform of the Health Service document published yesterday were in the programme for Government. However the Minister said that concrete timeframes were being provided for the first time.

The document states that it will introduce legislation to extend GP care without fees on a "phased basis".

Junior Minister Alex White, who is responsible for primary care and the rollout of free GP care, could not give a definite timeline for when everyone would receive free GP visits. However, he said the plan was to have it in place "by the end of this term of office, 2016".

The Government is already behind schedule in introducing the free GP care for people with long-term illnesses, which was announced in the last Budget and is due to begin in March. It could now be as late as the middle of next year before they receive it.

Dr Reilly said he has not met the unions representing GPs yet, which would be essential if doctors who now have private patients are to become part of a free State scheme.

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