Health cover and mortgage relief a tax ‘double whammy’ - FF

Middle-income families to face €700m more in taxes over five years, says McGrath

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath  said it looked “pretty clear that the current tax relief on health insurance policies will be phased out and probably cut altogether by this Government”.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said it looked “pretty clear that the current tax relief on health insurance policies will be phased out and probably cut altogether by this Government”.

Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 13:25

Universal health insurance (UHI) is going to be another tax on middle Ireland, Fianna Fáil has claimed in the wake of the publication yesterday of the UHI White Paper.

Finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the document did not state what the cost would be to individual families or the State, or what the income threshold would be that would determine whether the individual or the State pays the insurance.

Mr McGrath said it looked “pretty clear that the current tax relief on health insurance policies will be phased out and probably cut altogether by this Government”.

That would be on top of the complete abolition of mortgage interest relief by 2017. That would be a “double whammy of tax hikes for middle income families in this country”.

He estimated that middle-income families would face a “double tax” of about €700 million over the next five years.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that universal health insurance is going to be another tax on middle Ireland - a tax on working families who are already to the pin of their collar to get by financially.”

He said Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin had contradicted Minister for Health James Reilly when he said “no one will have to pay extra”.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said the Labour Party was the first to propose universal health insurance, and that Fianna Fáil had ridiculed the policy in its entirety.

He said a person’s access to healthcare should be based on need and not the amount of money in their pocket.

Mr Quinn, who was taking leaders’ questions in the absence of the Tánaiste, said this Government was the first to deal with the “root of the problem” in the structure of the health service and the first to commit to a universal GP service.

The Minister said there were many questions that could not be answered until the consultation process was completed but that “the whole purpose of the publication of the document is to have an informed debate”.

Mr McGrath said he fully supported the idea of a universal health system, “but I don’t support handing it over to private, for-profit health insurers - and that is what this policy is about”.

He said all the indications were that it would be private health insurance companies who determined the nature of access to healthcare, and suggested the other way to fund universal health insurance was through the tax system.

The Cork South-Central TD claimed the Government was “driving people out of the market. Thousands and thousands of people are dropping their health insurance because of changes in Government policy.” He said people were facing a bill of €3,000 for two adults and two children.

The Minister accused him of “jumping in” without reading the document, which included the option of a “not-for-profit health insurance model”, the VHI.

Mr Quinn said everyone agreed the “present model is not working satisfactorily” and was very expensive by international standards.