Healthcare costs in Ireland

 

Sir, – Youreditorial of August 7th endorses the Oireachtas healthcare report and criticises the Taoiseach for missing the July deadline for establishing an implementation office for the report’s recommendations.

The Oireachtas Committee noted that “expansion of the general government health budget in the last two years has been at the rate of 7 per cent per year. The committee recommends that this expansion should continue at a minimum over the next five years.” The recommended increase is 61 per cent over seven years.

The Department of Health (2016) data for 2014 show Ireland’s health expenditure per head in 2014 at $US5,501. This is 15 per cent more than France ($4,367), 11 per cent more than Canada ($4,492), 29 per cent more than Finland($3,870), 56 per cent more than Italy ($3,053), 64 per cent more than Spain ($3,053) and 26 per cent more than in the United Kingdom ($3,951). All the other countries report longer life expectancy than Ireland.

In September 2016 the Irish health service had 105,886 staff compared to 50,671 in June 1988 but there were 117,000 fewer hospital bed days performed compared to three decades earlier.

The EU Cross Border Healthcare Directive allows EU residents to access healthcare in other member states. Initial evidence indicates high patient satisfaction and far shorter waiting times. The National Association of General Practitioners plans to highlight the benefits of the cross-Border directive for patients here. The excess costs of healthcare in Ireland have been highlighted at the policy conferences of the Dublin Economics Workshop for many years.

The relatively high costs of healthcare in Ireland undermine the case for a further 61 per cent increase in the health budget. EU membership gives us incentives to offshore expensive healthcare in the short term and over time to reduce excess costs in Ireland. In respect of the Implementation Office to further increase health spending in Ireland – no news is good news. – Yours, etc,

SEAN BARRETT,

Economics Department,

Trinity College,

Dublin 2.