Health reforms could 'exacerbate two-tier system' - IMO

Doctors’ group says Government being disingenuous over universal health insurance

Irish medical Organisation president Prof Trevor Duffy said the Government was misleading the public by describing its proposed insurance model as a type of Universal Health Care with free care for all. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Irish medical Organisation president Prof Trevor Duffy said the Government was misleading the public by describing its proposed insurance model as a type of Universal Health Care with free care for all. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 12:59

The Irish Medical Organisation has serious concerns about Minister for Health James Reilly’s proposals for Universal Health Insurance (UHI).

The organisation claims the proposals will “institutionalise and exacerbate” the existing two-tier system of healthcare, as well as leading to the closure of many smaller hospitals.

IMO President Prof Trevor Duffy said the Government was misleading the public by describing its proposed insurance model as a type of Universal Health Care with free care for all.

“The Government is being disingenuous by confusing the terms Universal Health Insurance and Universal Health Care. These proposals are simply a reform of the financing of health care, not a commitment to a more equitable system of health care,” Prof Duffy said at the launch of the IMO’s submission on the recent White Paper on UHI.

The organisation had serious reservations about the Government’s proposals to deliver on affordability, equity of access, choice, timely access to care and quality of care and value for money, he said.

Accusing the Government of “putting the cart before the horse”, he said what was needed first was an open and transparent debate about the type of health care system we aspire to.

“There is more than one way to finance such as system and all models have their pros and cons. We believe the debate should be broadened to assess the respective merits of financing the system under an expanded taxation model or, eventually, under a system of social health insurance.”

According to the submission, the Government will be obliged to restrict the standard basket of care provided under UHI and impose high out-of-pocket co-payments in order to contain costs. “As a result, we will simply be reshuffling our two-tier system of healthcare to a system where those who can afford supplementary private health insurance will have access to a wider range of care while those without are limited to the standard basked of care with high co-payments.”

The Department of Health has received 125 submission on the White Paper on UHI but says it won’t publish them until after a “thematic analysis” is drawn up over the coming months.