Sunday 4 December 2016

Now the Coalition turns to Canadian healthcare model

Published 19/11/2015 | 02:30

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The Canadian model is now being looked at as an alternative version of Fine Gael's Universal Health Insurance. It is a system whereby everybody in the country pays health insurance in a non-competitive market, as an alternative to the ill-fated UHI.

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Health Minister Leo Varadkar has put forward a 'single payer' model, similar to that used in countries such as Canada and Estonia, for further research. It involves one organisation - usually but not necessarily the Government - purchasing health services for the entire population.

The Coalition is facing a backlash after abandoning its long-term policy of introducing UHI through a system that would have seen private companies compete with each other and the VHI for aspects of healthcare.

Mr Varadkar has now decided that the model promoted by Fine Gael "is not affordable now or ever because of either the very large premiums that would be imposed on families or the enormous subsidies that the Exchequer would have to foot the bill for".

In the Dáil, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin launched a scathing attack on the Taoiseach Enda Kenny over the Government's health policy, alleging that Mr Kenny would "say anything to get elected".

A report compiled by the ERSI suggested that the proposed system, which was committed to in the Programme for Government, could cost families around €5,000 a year.

The same report said that single-payer systems may "do better at controlling total healthcare expenditure than multi-payer systems".

It outlines how the single-payer system works with lower administration costs and offers "a greater ability to control healthcare expenditure".

Although Mr Varadkar is expected to commission a number of reports into how Ireland could adopt UHI, he has said the next five years will be spent trying to dismantle the HSE and build primary care services.

Before the last election, Fine Gael's 'Five Point Plan' included a promise to end the two-tier health system that sees private and public patients treated differently.

But Mr Varadkar now says there will be no rush to finalise a new funding model in order to live up to the commitment.

"The groundwork had to be done and the research had to be done. We were right not to rush into it. The end point is still the same," he said.

Expenditure

But Mr Martin attacked the Government for shelving the UHI plan, saying the Taoiseach didn't have a "bull's notion" how he would implement UHI.

"Language means nothing to you, you will say anything," he said. "You break promise after promise and believe media management will solve everything."

The Taoiseach said he accepted the report by the ERSI and the Government would continue to seek to end the two-tier health system.

During the same debate, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams asked Mr Kenny if he would resign over the UHI issue.

Mr Kenny said Mr Adams asked him to resign "every couple of months".

Irish Independent

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