Providing free GP care for children under six will not disproportionately benefit the better-off, junior health minister Kathleen Lynch has insisted.
As the controversial reform passed through the Seanad, critics said wealthy families would receive a financial boon, while other patients suffered.
Ms Lynch, who has taken over responsibility for primary car in the reshuffle, said means testing was not an option and the measure would benefit those struggling at a time when children need a lot of medical attention. “This is the most expensive time in a child’s life. Amazingly, when they hit five, the earaches, the sudden rise in temperature, the fright of them waking up in the night with a massive temperature, seems to disappear and they become healthier.”
With some senators warning the move, along with a plan to provide free GP care for those over 70, was not targeted enough at those in need, the minister said the Government was moving as fast as it could. “It would be lovely to do this in one fell swoop, but what we are doing has to be introduced on an incremental basis. The over 70s at the one end, and the under fives, again the area where we need additional help. It is not as if the Government is going out and giving people €1,000 each and saying go out and access your own health care. We are not, we are doing this is a conservative way.
“The very rich make up very little of society. Means-testing is a very blunt instrument and the only people I know who will benefit from this are people of quite limited means.”
Ms Lynch said talks with GPs on the reforms were making progress.
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