Health inequality hitting middle earners, EU study shows

People without private insurance but who earn too much for medical card losing out

According to the report average life expectancy in Ireland is 81.5 years, one of the highest in the EU.

According to the report average life expectancy in Ireland is 81.5 years, one of the highest in the EU.

 

Ireland’s two-tiered health system may be contributing to disparities between high and low income earners when accessing healthcare, according to a new report on Health Inequalities in Europe.

The report found that people in the so-called “twilight zone”, defined as those on incomes above the medical card threshold but without private health insurance, could be losing out to the greatest extent.

The report, “Health Inequalities in Europe: Setting the Stage for Progressive Policy Action” said Ireland is unique in an EU context as the only western European country without universal health coverage for primary care.

Universal coverage for primary care has been a Government commitment made since 2011 and this policy was reiterated in the Sláintecare programme in 2016.

The report was published by TASC, the Think-tank for Action on Social Change, and FEPS, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies.

It will form the evidential backbone of an international conference on Health Inequalities in Ireland: The Role of Policy, taking place at The Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin, today.

According to the report average life expectancy in Ireland is 81.5 years, one of the highest in the EU.

It also highlights the high level of disparity high and low-income groups when it comes to healthcare.

Unlike other western EU countries, the 45.4 per cent of people in Ireland with private health insurance in Ireland (2015) continue to enjoy favourable conditions, like faster access to diagnostics and hospital treatments, even from public providers, the report found.

In France, where there is near universal private health insurance, there is not the same discriminatory impact when it comes to accessing vital services.

“The old saying health is wealth seems to ring particularly true for Ireland,” said Shana Cohen, the new Director of Tasc.

The Europe-wide report examines health inequalities across the EU - the extent of those inequalities, their cost to society, their determinants and what can be done by policymakers to reduce them.

Within all European countries, the higher the social position of people is, approximated by level of education, occupation or income, the better their health.

Between European countries, life expectancy and mortality continue to be better in Western European countries than in Eastern European countries.