Minister for Health welcomes the publication of the Bill to extend free GP care to children up to the age of 12 and to increase access to medical cards for persons aged over 70 or older.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, has today (Thursday) welcomed the Government decision to approve the publication of the Health (General Practitioner Service and Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Bill 2020.

This Bill provides the legislative framework for the phased expansion of GP care without charges to all children of primary school age and to increase the income limits for medical card assessments for people aged 70 or over.

The expansion of GP care without charges is an important health measure and builds towards the Government’s commitment to ensure access to GP care for all children, as well as the Sláintecare Implementation Plan for universal access to healthcare.

This Bill will provide for the extension of GP care without fees to 6 and 7 year olds in the first instance and provides the basis for further phased extension of GP care without fees to all children 12 years and under in the years ahead. The Bill also provides for the implementation of an increase in the weekly gross medical card income limits for those aged 70 or older to €550 for individuals and €1,050 for couples.

Minister Harris, following Government approval to publish this legislation, said today:

“The benefits of this legislation are twofold. It will significantly improve access to GP services for children and also increase the numbers of those over 70 who have access to a medical card. This Bill will therefore give effect to two welcome measures which are important steps to delivering on the Government’s commitment to ensure affordable access to healthcare for all.

“Providing a legislative framework to extend free GP care to all primary school children is a significant milestone. It is a key step towards ensuring cost is no longer a barrier to accessing the appropriate healthcare when and where children require it”.

“Likewise, the welcome increase in the medical card income limits is another important measure to support older persons in our community. It is estimated that up to an additional 56,000 older persons in our society could benefit from this measure, providing them with access to a range of health services at a time when their health needs are more complex and thereby improving their quality of life”.

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