THE first phase of the widespread expansion of free GP services in Ireland has now gone live – meaning 215,000 more people are now eligible for cost-free care.
As of yesterday, applications are now open for eligible people aged between eight years old and 69 to register for their GP visit cards.
Announcing the opening of phase one of the scheme, Ireland’s Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly said: "I am delighted to confirm that the first of two expansions of the GP Visit Card scheme to people earning up to the median income is now live.”
He added: “This expansion of the GP Visit Card scheme is a significant milestone and will bring free GP care to approximately 215,000 people.
“Many people aged between 8 and 69 who currently see their GP care on a private basis may now be eligible for a means tested GP visit card.”
A simplified online application process is now available for applicants on the HSE website, with Mr Donnelly urging those who are eligible to “apply now”.
“This expansion of the GP Visit Card scheme will help people to manage the cost of living challenges we face,” he said, “and I encourage those who may be eligible to apply now.”
The expansion of free GP care in Ireland follows a landmark agreement between the Department of Health, the HSE, and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) signed in July 2023 which put in place a series of financial supports for GPs.
On August 8 free GP care was expanded to 78,000 children aged six and seven in Ireland.
As of September 11 that offering is available to 215,000 people aged between eight and 69 on a means tested basis.
From November 13, 2023, the second phase of the expansion will see free GP care extended to 215,000 more people across the country on a means tested basis.
"We are making significant steps forward in making healthcare affordable for all,” Mr Donnelly said.
"The expansion of the GP Visit Card scheme in 2023 is a significant milestone as we bring free GP care to close to 500,000 people this year.
“I am committed to ensuring affordable access for people in Ireland who are facing the toughest economic challenges.
“Removing the cost barrier to visiting their GP gives them better access to health care and supports their health and wellbeing."