Health

Wednesday 23 July 2014

GPs say universal health plan will 'handcuff' them

James Reilly
James Reilly

GPs have warned they will be "handcuffed" in the range of services they can provide and patients will lose out if the Government's proposals on universal healthcare are implemented.

The warning is contained in a submission by the the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), the professional body for family doctors .

The deadline for public submissions on the Government's radical proposal to introduce health insurance for all with a common waiting list closed yesterday as a year-long debate begins on the uncosted plan due to come into force in 2019.

The strongly-worded submission said this system of healthcare would remove people's ability to take charge of their health and it would ultimately do more harm than good.

"It will result in more fragmentation of health services where patients will lose choice, control and personalised healthcare," ICGP president Dr Tony Cox said.

"People will no longer be able to purchase health insurance which would give them any quicker or additional access to private health treatments."

He said while the organisation "fully supports the reform of the Irish health system and is in favour of universal access to healthcare based on need and not ability to pay", it has the potential to negatively affect the whole service.

ICGP spokesman Dr Darach O Ciardha said: "In our analysis, there are risks to public health, patient care and delivery of services in hospital, community and primary care settings if a system of universal healthcare funded by universal insurance is adopted.

"The experience of general practice has already shown disparity between the planning and the delivery of universal healthcare insurance.

"This is very evident in the handling of the recent proposal to provide free GP care for the under-sixes in Ireland and the removal of discretionary medical cards."

Care and decision-making will be handed over to "profit- driven insurance companies" which will be limited in number, he warned.

They also said universal healthcare insurance has failed to deliver in countries where it has been adopted such as the Netherlands.

Another submission from the IMPACT trade union warned that the "cost to families of universal health insurance will vastly exceed the property tax or planned water charges".

The union – which represents thousands of health workers – said it will place "an impossible financial burden on families and individuals who don't currently have private health insurance and don't qualify for medical cards".

Health Minister James Reilly's figure of a €900 premium per adult was "over optimistic". IMPACT called on the Government not to proceed until the likely cost to individuals and families is "assessed, publicised and understood".

The submission said: "It has been claimed that it can be introduced with no additional cost to the exchequer, which means any extra revenue would have to be raised through individual insurance premia."

The union said that implementing the wrong model would have ramifications for the healthcare of future generations. A realistic timetable for a phased introduction should be planned for and this should set out in a transparent way all the costs.

Irish Independent

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