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Report finds medical card leads to change in GP visits

Gaining a full medical or GP visit card is associated with 1.3 extra GP visits per annum. Compared to the level of GP visiting for this group in 2010, which was 3 visits, this represents an increase of approximately 43 per cent.

The new report is by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). The report details the impact that changes to an older person’s entitlement to a medical card has on their use of health services, such as GP visits, flu vaccines, medications and hospital care.

The report also finds that for those who lose a full medical or GP visit card, the number of GP visits falls by 1.2 visits per annum, this is equivalent to a fall of approximately 29 per cent from the 2010 level which was 4 annual visits.

“These findings have important implications for the Irish healthcare system as free GP care is extended to all under 6s and over 70s and as we move towards universal healthcare,” said Dr Anne Nolan, one of the authors of the report.

“One of the key questions is whether the increase in the use of GP services and medications that we observe upon receipt of a full medical/GP visit card reflects an increase in beneficial care and/or whether those who lose a full medical/GP visit card are foregoing necessary care.

“This would require more detailed research on diagnoses, length of consultation, health outcomes etc.”

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