Reilly's free healthcare will add seven new quangos
HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly's planned move to a new system of healthcare would create up to seven new quangos, it emerged last night.
The move comes as Fine Gael in Government has pledged to cut the number of quangos and reduce duplication of roles to drive value for taxpayers' money.
The new system, to be phased in over the next five years, would provide free healthcare – but all citizens would be obliged by law to buy their own private health insurance to fund it. One estimate has put the cost of a basic insurance package at about €30 a week.
People on low incomes would have their health insurance paid by the State. They may, however, also face a clawback from welfare or other payments in that case.
But the Irish Independent has also been given a list of at least seven quangos that official sources claim will be created as part of the new complex system of health administration.
The quangos would variously run hospitals, community care services, care for patient welfare, price health services, supervise the overall policy change, manage the health insurance funds and payment of shortfalls for people who cannot afford insurance.
The latest development has intensified an ongoing row between the Health Department and the Public Spending Department with tensions between ministers Dr James Reilly and Brendan Howlin.
Last night Dr Reilly rejected claims that he was increasing the number of quangos. "We are in fact doing the very opposite and reducing the number of quangos. It is completely wrong to say we are creating new ones," a spokesman for the Dr Reilly told the Irish Independent.
Dr Reilly's spokesman said that the new hospital management structure will in fact reduce the number of hospital governing bodies from almost 50 to just seven. The number of supervisory bodies in community care would also be reduced while other bodies on the list given to this newspaper would replace existing organisations, including the HSE.
The draft health policy document is due to be discussed by the Cabinet sub-committee on health next Monday and was due to go to Government within weeks. But already the Labour Party has laid down a strong marker that the plan as tabled by Dr Reilly is not acceptable.
"This is not government policy. As far as we are concerned we need a lot of assessment, especially around the cost of the whole thing and how it will be administered. There will have to be big changes," a Labour Party source said.
The latest row follows claims last week that taxpayers could face additional costs of up to €5bn per year, and reports of clear tensions within Government.
The plan is understood to be a mix of the Dutch and German models of healthcare with obligatory health insurance funding services that are free at point of delivery.
John Downing, Political Correspondent