Healthcare plan 'will make water charge look modest'
A FAMILY of four who currently cannot afford health insurance, risks having to pay €3,600 a year for cover when it becomes mandatory for everyone in five years.
The figure is based on former Health Minister James Reilly's "optimistic" estimate that the basic package under a universal healthcare insurance system cost €900 person, the MacGill Summer School in Glenties was told.
Louise O'Donnell of the IMPACT trade union – which represents thousands of health workers – said the payment would have to be made without tax relief if the plan is introduced.
"It will certainly make existing property taxes and water charges look modest by comparison," she told the gathering during a debate on the Government's controversial health reform proposal.
The premium will only cover a basic package of services and patients will continue to have to pay €100 fee for attending A&E, with "huge uncertainty" over whether post-hospital therapy services, mental health, dental, elderly care and other needs would be included.
However, Professor Anthony Staines, from Dublin City University, told the audience he wants to see more public debate about the health system and pointed out that ultimately it is the public who pay.
"Whether the system is tax-funded, insurance based, or paid for privately, the money to pay for healthcare comes from households. The key issues are equity, fairness and efficiency," he added.
Under the Government proposals for universal health insurance, people who currently have private cover will get the bonus of free GP credit – but lose faster access to hospitals and specialists.
"The Government will pay for some other healthcare services not included in the basic basket. These would include immunisations, screening services, ambulance services, hospital emergency department care, and long-term residential care.
"People would be allowed to take out supplementary health insurance. This would cover areas not included in the basket," Prof Staines added.
"For example, private rooms in hospitals. For the first time, this supplementary insurance would be provided on a risk-related basis rather than on a community-rated basis. This means that such cover would cost more for older people."
He said the cost of standard basket of cover is not yet clear under the proposed system.
"It has been suggested that the basic basket could cost €1,600," he said.
Prof Staines urged members of the audience to inform the Government about what design they want for the health service and universal health insurance in particular.