Dáil Éireann - Volume 611 - 07 December, 2005
Written Answers. - Health Services.
Mr. Gormley Mr. Gormley
136. Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if Ireland is unusual in Europe in not providing primary care services without charge to the majority of the population; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38405/05]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Ms Harney: Policy on the coverage of health services in other countries, including primary care, depends on the nature of the overall health system and on whether the funding mechanism is based on social insurance or central taxation. Under a social insurance model, for example, a person may make a contribution as part of the financing of health services and not make a direct contribution towards the cost of a particular service. It is difficult, therefore, to generalise about other countries in regard to charging for specific services.
In Ireland, eligibility for services is based on the principle that those who can afford to contribute towards their cost should do so. I support this  principle. I intend to bring forward new legislation to clarify and update the present eligibility system. The main focus will be to ensure that the law is fair, clear and efficient. I believe that the best means of achieving these objectives is by providing graduated benefits. I intend to develop proposals in this regard as part of the new legislation on eligibility. I have already started this process through the provision of GP visit cards.
Medical cards are a fundamentally important health benefit and eligibility for a medical card facilitates free access to many other public services. I have increased the income guidelines for medical cards and GP visit cards by some 29% this year, and have also made other changes in the assessment rules to make it easier for people to qualify for a medical card or GP visit card. It is my intention to keep this graduated benefits approach under review.
Dáil Éireann 611 Written Answers. Health Services.