Thursday 14 December 2017

Abolition of health fees 'would cost households €4,000'

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. Stock photo
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. Stock photo
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The abolition of health service fees and charges proposed by a powerful Oireachtas committee will cost every household around €4,000 in additional taxes, Fine Gael has warned.

The warning of massive tax hikes was made in a submission to the Committee on the Future of Healthcare.

The committee's draft report recommended sweeping cuts to patient charges, estimated to cost around €6bn. The report was ordered by Health Minister Simon Harris and is to be used as a roadmap for fixing the crisis-ridden health service.

However, in a submission to the committee, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, Fine Gael warns households will be "paying up to €4,000 more in taxes from some other source to cover the cost of the model".

Fine Gael said the tax hikes would be "shocking and unsustainable for many families".

The committee will meet today and 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."

The committee is also split over abolishing tax reliefs for private health insurance.

Meanwhile, 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.

Sinn Féin's proposals were described by a Fine Gael source as "nonsense".

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 Féin also wants to increase commercial stamp duty to 3pc and retain the USC at its current rates.

Sinn Féin also believes the €13bn Apple tax bill currently at the centre of a 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 Féin 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.

Irish Independent

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