Not fair for people to pay €50 extra per GP appointment just because of where they live, says Micheál Martin

It is not fair that people pay €50 more per GP appointment simply because of where they live, according to Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

The Consumer Competition Authority has powers to make sure there is no “price fixing” or “cartels” and the Government will keep these “significant costs” under review, said Mr Martin.

His comments come as the Irish Independent revealed price differences of up to €50 per GP appointment, depending solely on where people live across the country.

People in Dublin fork out the most for GP appointments, with some costing as much as €80 per visit.

The Irish Independent investigation found the most expensive GP appointment was at a practice in Dublin city centre for €80, while the cheapest was available at a practice in Co Monaghan for just €30.

On the less expensive end of the scale, one GP in Sligo sets consultation fees at €45, a GP in Kerry charges €40 and a GP in Donegal charges €35.

Elsewhere, three of the GPs surveyed set their fees at €75, all located between Dublin city centre and south Dublin.

GPs are private practitioners and so are able to set their own prices for appointments.

“Government generally doesn’t interfere in terms of pricing across the entire economy,” Mr Martin said, adding: “But we do engage and in the past, negotiations with the IMO have been challenging because of the rulings from the Consumer Protection group warn against collective agreements on pricing and so forth.”

When asked if it is fair that some people pay €50 more for a GP visit simply because of where they live in the country, he said: “No.”

“I think we’ll keep that under review, there is in some areas a shortage of GPs and I hope that’s not being exploited.”

He said over half the population now has access to a GP visit or medical card but said there are “significant” cost burdens for people who do not have these cards.

“Government have subsidised general practice very significantly in terms of the variety of schemes and the variety of programmes. We have dramatically increased access to medical cards and GP cards to an unprecedented level historically and continue to seek ways to cut costs.

“We’ve cut costs significantly for the consumer and we’ll continue to keep those issues under review,” he said.

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