Committee calls for separation of public and private healthcare

Draft report recommends huge cash injection in health service over next 10 years

A complete "disentangling" of the public and private healthcare systems is proposed in the draft report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare.

The draft report, a copy of which has been seen by The Irish Times, is set to recommend that patients with private health insurance can no longer be treated in public hospitals, and that tax relief for private health insurance be phased out.

The all-party committee, which has been tasked with delivering a 10-year plan for the future of the health system, is expected to publish its report in the coming weeks.

However, committee sources say that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil members are unlikely to agree to such a dramatic and radical separation of the side-by-side public and private systems.


The report also recommends a huge cash injection for the health service over the next 10 years, with ring-fenced funds and greater contributions from taxpayers and employers.

Sources say that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members have raised objections to the extent of the separation of the public and private systems that is favoured by committee chair Róisín Shortall and other members of the committee, including Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly and Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry, and are likely to table significant amendments to the draft report. The draft report also envisages the introduction of universal free GP care in the first year of the 10-year strategy, while the abolition of private care in public hospitals should happen in the second year.

Array of charges

It says that an array of charges for health services, including GP fees and hospital charges should be abolished, and the cost of drugs should be reduced.

However, it acknowledges that consumers may pay more through additional taxation and levies needed to provide the funding for a significantly expanded health system. It says that there should be ring-fenced increased funding for new health services of €500 million a year, as well as a transitional fund of €3 billion over six years.

If implemented, the report would see a significant expansion of health services and costs over the next decade.

However, political sources are sceptical that the committee will be able to agree on such a radical plan for the health service.

Almost half the population pays for private health insurance , which generally allows for quicker access to treatment, much of which is delivered in public hospitals, often by doctors whose contracts enable them to work in both the private and public systems.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times