All children aged five and under will get free GP care, regardless of what their parents earn

By Business Editor David Murphy

There is one striking feature about the Budget – universal benefits are back in vogue.

The problem with universal benefits is that they are paid to people regardless of their income.

Since Ireland entered the bailout in 2010, officials from the EU and IMF have been consistently asking why some benefits – such as child benefit – have been paid to the wealthy as well as the under-privileged.

Now the Government has done it again with the introduction of the free GP care for all children aged 5 years or under.

It is the first step towards Fine Gael’s plan of free care for all.

If the country was flush with cash this would not present a problem.

But Ireland is still has a deficit and Minister for Health James Reilly is continuing to cut back spending in the Department of Health to meet demanding targets.

That means he will be continuing to cut existing services to pay to give free GP care for under fives.

This raises a simple question:  Why should the under-fives in high income households get free GP care?