Report says Government health plans will increase costs
23% of population may have to pay over €1,000 a year for health insurance
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: says there is a “sense of drift” in the health service, with staff demoralised, at the “end of their tether” and afraid to speak out
More than one million people who have neither medical cards nor private health insurance will be forced to pay large premiums under the Government’s plans for universal health insurance, according to a report.
The 23 per cent of the population with no public or private health cover may have to pay over €1,000 a year in universal health insurance premiums, according to UCC health economist Dr Brian Turner.
This is the current average cost of health insurance and is close to the premium charged in the Dutch system, on which the Government’s plans are modelled.
Fianna Fáil, which commissioned the report from Dr Turner, said his analysis raised serious concerns about the Government’s proposals.
“It suggests there is insufficient evidence internationally to suggest that a change in the funding mechanism planned by the Government will produce benefits sufficient to justify the disruption it would cause,” said party health spokesman Billy Kelleher.
“Indeed there is some evidence to suggest that such a move would lead to higher costs for the Irish public without significant improvements in health outcomes.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin strongly attacked the policies being pursued by Minister for Health James Reilly. He claimed there was a “sense of drift” in the health service, with staff demoralised, at the “end of their tether” and afraid to speak out.
He described the report as the first step by Fianna Fáil towards an alternative blueprint for the future of the service.
Dr Turner said cost was at the core of his concerns about plans for universal healthcare insurance. There was no international evidence to show that costs were kept down under the system planned; in the Netherlands, health spending rose 46 per cent in five years under a similar system.
The programme for Government envisages major health reform, starting with cuts in waiting lists and free GP care. The introduction of universal health insurance, which is planned for a second term of office, would require everyone to buy health insurance. The State would pay or subsidise premiums for those on low incomes.
However, the planned reforms are behind schedule and Fianna Fáil yesterday criticised the Government’s failure to publish a promised White Paper on universal healthcare after over two years in power.
The report says that while there is widespread agreement on the need for reform, it is less clear that UHI would solve the problems in the health system.
“Given the significant structural reforms that have taken place in the Irish health system in the last decade, perhaps it would be better to maximise the benefits of the existing system, while making changes to the elements that are not functioning optimally, rather than embarking on a radical redesign of the entire system.”