independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Fears rollout of James Reilly's plan will lead only to new wave of quangos

Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly
Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly

DEPARTMENT of Expenditure officials fear Health Minister James Reilly's plan to introduce universal health insurance could lead to a "proliferation" of quangos, the Irish Independent has learned.

Senior coalition figures are becoming increasingly concerned about the bitter dispute that has broken out between two of the Government's biggest departments over the rollout of the plan.

The row, which erupted last week, has threatened to seriously damage relations between Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Dr Reilly.

Dr Reilly has said that a universal system is needed to "end the unfair two-tier health system we currently have". It was a key part of Fine Gael's election manifesto in 2011.

But Mr Howlin's officials believe it could potentially add an extra €5bn to healthcare costs.

The department warned in a letter last week that Dr Reilly's plan had the "real risk of creating a potentially open-ended financial liability for the Exchequer".

It has now emerged that Mr Howlin's officials are seriously worried that the proposals will result in a new wave of quangos.

"Howlin's people believe a series of new bodies would have to be created to ensure the smooth rollout of Reilly's plan," said a senior Labour source.

But Health sources say: "This is a seriously flawed assessment of the work this department has been doing. There will be no proliferation of quangos, it's as simple as that."

The Department of Health will formally respond and claim that the plan can be achieved through the use of bodies that are already up and running.

The new health service system, known as Universal Health Insurance, is due to be introduced by 2019.

A public consultation will take place on the White Paper after it is circulated to government figures shortly.

Tensions over the plan, before it is even published, threaten to result in a frosty cabinet meeting this week.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore last night refused to be drawn on whether he shares Mr Howlin's concerns about elements of Dr Reilly's plan, which is contained in the Coalition's Programme for Government.

Irish Independent

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