Tuesday 21 November 2017

Sinn Féin wants to increase taxes for employers in order to reduce patient fees

Health committee row

The proposals were made by Sinn Féin in a set of amendments to the final report of the Committee on the Future of Healthcare report Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The proposals were made by Sinn Féin in a set of amendments to the final report of the Committee on the Future of Healthcare report Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

SINN Féin wants to abolish tax breaks for the tourism industry and increase taxes for employers along with retaining the hated universal social charge (USC) to fund a massive reduction in patient fees and charges.

The proposals were made by Sinn Fein in a set of amendments to the final report of the Committee on the Future of Healthcare report.

The report recommends slashing patient costs and huge investment in services but the cross-party committee is at loggerheads over how the State will pay for the landmark reforms.  

The committee is also split on suggestions that tax reliefs on private health insurance should be abolished.

The committee is due to meet on Wednesday and it is understood Fine Gael members will insist all proposals are costed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

In a document submitted to the committee Fine Gael said: "Health reforms of the past have failed due to affordability."

"We are concerned this report is falling into the same trap.  It needs to be robust, realistic and affordable. If the report is diminished as uncosted and therefore aspirational, it will not get the buy in required to deliver the service that we want," it added.

Last night Sinn Fein’s amendments were described by a Fine Gael committee source as "nonsense" and "unreasonable".

Gerry Adams’s party wants to hike tourism Vat from 9pc to 13.5pc, introduce a 15.17pc rate of PRSI for employers earning more than €100 and also increase capital acquisitions tax (CAT) to 36pc.

Sinn Fein also wants to increase commercial stamp duty to 3pc and retain the USC at its current rates.  Sinn Fein also believes the €13bn Apple tax bill currently at the centre of EU commission legal row could also be used to fund the health reforms.

The first draft of the committee’s report recommended the abolition of access charges for public hospital care, which are currently capped at €800-a-year for patients who do not have medical cards. Emergency Department fees would be removed once primary care had been fully introduced.

The committee proposes reducing the prescription charge for medical card holders from €2.50 to 50c.  Sinn Fein wants to completely abolish the prescription charge.

The threshold for drug reimbursement for non-medical card holders would be cut from €144 to €72.

Free GP care for everyone should be introduced within five years, according to the committee.

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