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GP-only medical cards a quarter of the value of real Medical Cards - Ó Caoláin

2 December, 2004

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has revealed that the promised GP-only medical card will be only a quarter of the value of the real Medical Card. In reply to a Dáil Question from Deputy Ó Caoláin, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney stated that while the GP-only card will cost approximately €250 per year, the cost per year of the full medical card is €1,000 per year. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The revelation that the GP-only medical card is a quarter of the cost of the real Medical Card comes on Budget Day and adds a dose of reality to the hype over Minister Cowen's first big outing as Finance Minister.

"Hospital charges and medicine costs have already been increased by the Government so that the FF/PD Coalition is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. While the extension of free GP services to many more people will be welcome, the Government should not try to fool people into thinking that they are getting the full value of the General Medical Services Scheme. They will still bear the heavy cost of medicines which together with hospital attendances represent three quarters of the value of the medical card."

Text of Question and Reply

121. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the timescale for delivery of the promised 200,000 general practitioner-only cards; the legislation that will be necessary to provide for them; the estimated cost per card in comparison with the cost per card of the full medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31636/04]

Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children (Ms Harney): Subject to clarifying legislative and administrative issues, the new doctor visit card will

be introduced as early as possible in 2005. The estimated cost of 200,000 new doctor visit cards will be approximately €50 million in a full year, which means an estimated cost per card per year of €250, compared to an estimated annual cost of €1,000 for a full medical card. The Department of Health and Children will work closely with the health boards and authority in the coming weeks. It will work with the HSE, which is due to assume responsibility for the service in 2005, to oversee the operation of the scheme. Arrangements have been agreed to put the processes required in train. The Irish Medical Organisation, which has been made aware of the initiatives, has indicated that the developments are in line with its views.

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