Press Release

Tánaiste welcomes agreement with Irish Medical Organisation for issue of doctor visit medical cards

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. said today,

“I am very pleased that today agreement has been reached with the Irish Medical Organisation for the immediate issue of 200,000 new doctor visit medical cards.

“The Government decided last year to support low income families by providing €50 million (in a full year) to fund free GP visits.

“Adding this benefit to the traditional medical card will mean that approximately 1.4 million people will be able to access their GP free.

“I urge people to apply immediately. All Health Service local offices will take applications. There will be an advertising campaign to make people aware of this benefit. It is vital that people get the benefits of this important health initiative.

“I believe strongly in graduated benefits. Too often, means tests have drawn a line between full service and no service, between full benefit and no benefit. With the doctor visit card, we will support four times the number of people as we could using the same budget for traditional medical cards.

“We will, of course, continue to fund and develop traditional medical card services. Over €1.4 billion is allocated to funding medical cards this year. When there is full take up of the new doctor visit card, 85 per cent of card recipients will hold the traditional medical card.

“I am also actively examining again the income guidelines for all medical cards to ensure that the funding and policy decisions the Government makes translate into benefits for individuals and their families.

The Tánaiste looked forward also to development and reform in primary health care services:

“GP services are a vital and highly effective part of our health service. The Government is supporting GP care with over €400m in funding through the Health Service Executive.

“I am very pleased that we can now move on to the wider reform agenda in partnership with the Irish Medical Organisation. It is in everyone’s interest, most of all in patients’ interests, that the pace of reform moves much faster and more productively than in recent years.”