Health Minister James Reilly has stated that introducing free GP care for all will cost up to €402m a year, yet his own department insists that the cost will be less than €332m, a difference of €70m.
Department figures shown to the online journal, the Medical Independent, give a precise cost estimate of €331,767,849 for the free service, based on population, capitation payments for physicians and nurses, and practice support costs.
However, in response to a Dáil question from Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Dr Reilly said that while the cost of providing free GP care for under-5s, as announced in last month’s budget, will cost €37m a year, extending that to the entire population will mean an additional cost of between €330m and €365m.
Dr Reilly said the Government remained committed to introducing, on a phased basis, a universal GP service within its term of office, as set out in the Programme for Government and the Future Health strategy framework.
“This will mean that almost half of the population will have access to GP services without fees,” he said. “The Government is providing new, additional funding of €37m to meet the cost of this measure.”
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