Government drops original plan for Universal Health Insurance

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claims decision is a ‘resigning matter’

The Government has insisted it remains committed to universal affordable healthcare despite dropping its original plan for Universal Health Insurance (UHI).

A Government spokesman said it would introduce affordable quality care in a timely away despite the decision of Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to move away from kind of UHI promised by his predecessor Dr James Reilly.

Mr Varadkar told his Cabinet colleagues on Tuesday night that the plan endorsed by Dr Reilly would have increased the cost of running the health service by €650 million a year.

The Government spokesman said reform of the health service would be funded through a form of UHI.

“Building on the reforms already put in place we will continue to move away from the wasteful inefficient and unfair approach to health service provision that we inherited from the previous government.

“This must be done in a way that is affordable for both taxpayers and buyers of health insurance,” he said.

Fianna Fáil attacked what it described as the abandonment of UHI and said it was a resigning matter for the Government.

Party leader Micheal Martin said UHI has been promised by Fine Gael for 14 years and only now the party realised it was not feasible.

“This is a resigning matter. We would like the electorate to take matters into their own hands,” said Mr Martin.

He said it was an appalling indictment of Government policy and proved that nothing Fine Gael said ahead of the election could be trusted.

He said the blame cannot lay solely with Mr Reilly as Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Varadkar had fully endorsed the plans.

“Leo Varadkar didn’t say a dickie bird about this until he came into office and I would say the civil servants are at the end of their tether in terms of this basic dishonest proposition.”

The party’s spokesman on health Billy Kellehersaid Fianna Fáil would commit to a taxation funded model that commits to the public health service.

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said Mr Varadkar’s memo to Cabinet about the shortcomings of the UHI plan was a vindication of what Sinn Féin have been saying all along.

“Sinn Féin is strongly opposed to the pro-business and for-profit slant of Fine Gael’s approach to healthcare. UHI represents a fillip for private health insurance companies, and the for-profit healthcare approach”, said Mr O Caoláin.

He said a similar model in the Netherlands had seen the quality and range of care continually reduced with premiums rising by up to 40 per cent.