Monday 23 April 2018

We're spending €130 more now on healthcare than before recession

Health Minister Leo Varadkar 'parked' universal care plans
Health Minister Leo Varadkar 'parked' universal care plans
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Each person in Ireland spent €130 more last year than they did in 2007 for the same level of healthcare, new research has revealed.

Essential drugs and hospital care have cost Irish people €600m more than pre- recession, the research by Trinity College health economists shows.

They concluded that, with the exception of free GP care for the youngest and oldest, there has been little change in the proportion of the population who can access healthcare without charge since the Government came to power.

The Government made promises to have made major headway in finishing the two-tier health system by the end of its term with free GP for all and the first stages of universal health insurance in place.

However, Dr Steve Thomas, Associate Professor, Centre for Health Policy and Management in Trinity told a conference yesterday: "Over the austerity period we increased the financial barriers to accessing health care.

"This is inconsistent with international and Irish commitments to universal healthcare. We need to reverse this process and as the economy expands dismantle current financial barriers."

He said the introduction of life-time community rating, whereby over 35 year olds are penalised for not taking out private health insurance, demonstrates the Government's increasing incoherence in policy measures.

Short term, this measure makes the health system less universal, he added.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar "parked" plans to for universal healthcare when he took office in mid-2014 although he has progressed with promises to give free GP care to all children under six and all over-70s.

An ESRI-commissioned report on the cost of rolling out the plan for GP care and hospitals is due to be published in the near future.

In response, a spokesman for the Department of Health insisted the Government "is undertaking a major programme of health reform to deliver a single-tier health service and universal healthcare, where access to care is based on need and not on ability to pay.

"In order to deliver on universal healthcare, the minister is pushing ahead with key reforms, as set out in the Programme for Government and Future Health, including the phased extension of GP care without charges."

He also plans key financial reforms including basing funding on activity, the establishment of hospital groups and the improved management of ongoing diseases "as quickly as possible".

"These are all important building blocks for universal healthcare and are important reforms in their own right," said the spokesman.

"In January 2011, approximately 38pc of the population qualified for GP care without fees.

"By September 1, 2015, approximately 45pc of the population qualified for GP care without fees. This will be extended further in the lifetime of the next Government.

"On foot of the first two phases of extending universal GP care, approximate 450,000 people are now eligible for a non-means tested service."

Irish Independent

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