Saturday 24 February 2018

Varadkar and Harris insist tax reliefs here to stay

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Niall O'Connor and Eilish O'Regan

The proposal to eliminate tax relief for people with private health insurance has been firmly ruled out by Health Minister Simon Harris and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

They were responding to a draft recommendation by the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare to end the reliefs for the privately insured as a means of freeing up funding for public hospitals.

"That is not a proposal that would work," Mr Harris said.

"I believe in a universal healthcare system but the way you reach that is to build up capacity within the public health service.

"That way more people have confidence in the public health system.

"You put in more beds and staff and reduce waiting times. In that way more people will not have to pay for private health insurance which they are put at the pin of their collar to pay for.

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"To remove the tax relief is not the way you do it. I want to reach political consensus. This is a draft report."

Mr Varadkar said he totally agreed with the minister.

"About 40pc of the population has private health insurance. They are hard-working people. It is their own money. The only concession they get is a 20pc concession on tax relief and there can be no removing of that until we have solved the problems in our public health service first. It is not the way to go."

Mr Varadkar, who is seen as favourite to lead Fine Gael, reiterated this stand in the Dáil when quizzed by Fianna Fáil constituency colleague Deputy Jack Chambers.

Irish Independent

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