Govt agrees to pay €290 per elderly medical-card patient

Health Minister Mary Harney has accepted a recommendation that GPs should be paid €290 per patient under the revamped over-70s medical-card scheme.

This month's Budget removed the automatic right to a medical card on reaching the age of 70.

Former secretary general and current chairperson of the Public Appointments Service Eddie Sullivan made the recommendation at the Government's request.

He consulted more than 70 submissions on the issue before making the recommendation of €290.

GPs are currently paid a capitation fee of €640 for each patient over the age of 70 who received a medical card automatically on age grounds, compared with an average of €162 for people in that age category who obtained a medical card on the basis of a means test.

The Government estimates that the change in fees will generate savings of about €16m next year in capitation fees paid to GPs.

It is likely that a ballot of GPs on the issue is will now take place.

Mary Harney said: "Savings of €100m in this area are to be achieved. The balance of the total savings of €100m required by the budgetary framework will be achieved through economies in drug usage, based on recommendations from a group being established under the chairmanship of Dr Michael Barry."

Dr Barry’s group has been asked to report by December 1.

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