Cabinet agrees universal health plans

Reilly to publish white paper on reforms

The Government has agreed in principle to the introduction of universal health insurance by 2019 on condition it does not involve any additional costs to the exchequer.

Universal health insurance – which has been championed by Minister for Health James Reilly – would involve a radical reform to the way the Irish health service is structured and funded.

However the Minister’s plans have faced strong criticism over recent months from within the Government. The Minister will publish a White Paper on his plans today but there will be further extensive planning and costing carried out in the months ahead and the issue will return to Cabinet for further key decisions next year.

Highly placed sources said last night that the Cabinet agreed earlier in the day to publish the Minister’s White Paper with a view to universal health insurance being introduced in 2019.


Cost containment
Sources said this was agreed by the Government on condition the costs of the health system in 2019 could not exceed those under the arrangements in place before universal health insurance was introduced.

The Cabinet also set a condition that cost-containment measures proposed in the plan were approved by the Attorney General. These involve a gradually escalating series of provisions potentially culminating in a cap being placed on the profits of insurance companies.

Under Dr Reilly’s proposals, universal health insurance would be compulsory for everyone, with the State paying or subsidising the cost of premiums for most people.

His proposals were strongly criticised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform several weeks ago. It argued in a letter that the plan could threaten the financial stability of the State.

It also suggested the cost of the standard package of health insurance under Dr Reilly's proposals could cost €1,672. The Department of Health strongly rejected these claims.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent