I have been working in the area of special needs since 2008 and this is the first time I felt excited about changes to legislation around health care (usually my heart sinks!). Parents who have a child with additional needs have higher and sometimes huge medical expenses. 

Now there is help for children under six because of the new GP Visit Card. This means that a child’s disability will not put any additional strain on parents’ finances when it comes to seeking medical treatment.

The new scheme represents the first phase in the provision of free doctor care for everyone and is part of the Government Health Reform Programme. When fully rolled out it will create a single tier health service, supported by universal health insurance with universal primary care including GP care without fees at the point of services.

In addition to providing GP care for all under 6’s the new contract will also include the provision of periodic wellness checks for children once at age two and once at age five, which are focused on health and wellbeing and disease prevention. It will also include a cycle of care for the management of Asthma.

How to apply?

If your child has a Medical Card or GP Visit Card they will automatically be registered for this new scheme. If not then you can register them online at www.pcrsonline.ie/portal/free-gp-care-web/pub. You will need your child’s PPS number, your own PPS number and which doctor you intend to use.

GPs are independent contractors and it will be up to each doctor individually to decide whether they sign up for or opt out of this new arrangement. To check the list of GPs taking part in the scheme go to https://www.pcrsonline.ie/libr/html/UGP_GPlist_by_LHO.pdf

Once you complete the registration process, details are sent to your GP of choice who must accept your child to his or her patient panel. Once the GP of choice has confirmed acceptance of the registration of your child, a GP Visit Card will be issued to you.

My Opinion (for what it is worth!)

This is a fantastic scheme so register ASAP as this will eliminate your doctor costs. To lower your medical bills for your child then send off the application for a Long Term Illness Card. Check the HSE website for a list of qualifying disabilities www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/schemes/lti/Your_Guide_to_the_Long-Term_Illness_Scheme.html

You also have the option of the Drug Payment Scheme which means a family maximum spend is €144 per month on the family prescription bills. Combining these schemes will go a long way to provide similar financial cost savings as having a Medical Card.