Health plans 'are just an excuse for raising taxes'
HEALTH Minister James Reilly's health service reforms are being described as an excuse to bring in a "massive tax hike".
Under the reforms, known as Universal Health Insurance, everyone in the country must have at least a standard level of cover from an insurance company.
Dr Reilly's proposals will deduct the cost of basic health insurance from the wages and benefits of people who refuse to pay – similar to the property tax.
However, people on low incomes will have the insurance paid for or subsidised.
The proposal is contained in a White Paper on Universal Health Insurance to be published in the coming weeks.
Universal Health Insurance will be introduced within five years.
But how the system of mandatory health insurance and the overhaul of the system will be funded is still not clear.
Opposition parties reacted angrily to the proposals yesterday.
Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the charges were another tax.
"It is effectively a massive tax hike for people who can't afford it," he said.
Mr Kelleher said the Coalition was stalling on publishing the proposals after three years in Government.
Sinn Fein's health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain said the Coalition's concept of Universal Health Insurance based on competing private health insurance companies was "fundamentally flawed".
Reform Alliance senator Fidelma Healy Eames said she had already been contacted by three constituents concerned at the proposals.
"Basically, people have nothing left. One woman has only €10 a week left," he said.
Under the plan, all members of the public will have to be insured to the same standard by insurance firms.
In the event a person fails to buy the insurance, the State will take out the policy on their behalf and "recoup the cost at source from income or benefits".
Dr Reilly's spokesman said it was well established that Universal Health Insurance would have to be mandatory.
"Where somebody doesn't pay for it, a method will have to be found to get them to do so," the spokesman said.
The Coalition is planning to consult with the public, through a Citizens Health Assembly, in deciding what should actually be covered by the basic insurance package.
Ordinary members of the public will also be asked to assess the "willingness to pay for services" and be told of the cost implications for individuals and the Exchequer, the report says.