Sunday 25 March 2018

Universal Health Insurance plan to be published tomorrow

Minister for Health, James Reilly
Minister for Health, James Reilly
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly's proposals for the radical reform of the health service are expected to be published tomorrow, has learned.

Universal Health Insurance will end the two-tier health system and give a basic level of insurance to everybody, subsidised by the State.

The system is expected to be introduced within five years.

The Cabinet is this morning signing off the draft of the White Paper on UHI from Health Minister Dr James Reilly.

The proposal has attracted criticism from within the Government itself for lacking detail on the costs associated.

Dr Reilly has now inserted a guarantee in his plan that the cost will "not exceed" the spending on the existing two-tier system.

Under the health insurance plan, families will not be able to jump queues for medical treatment by paying extra.

The reform will have massive implications for the two million people who currently hold private health insurance cover.

Insurance companies will be specifically banned from offering quicker access to hospitals for standard treatments – though will still be able to offer other benefits such as private rooms.

The core principle of UHI is healthcare being equally available to each member of society and treatment based solely on medical need, not income. 

Everyone will have cover from a private health insurance company.

Those who can’t afford the premium will have it paid for fully or be heavily subsidised by the State.

Dr Reilly has estimated that 40pc of the population, who currently hold medical cards, will get their health insurance paid in full, with another 30pc getting a heavy subsidy.

The minister will also have to show hospitals can be run and health services can be delivered at a lower cost to the taxpayer for his reform of the system to go ahead in five years time.

The preparations for Universal Health Insurance will proceed with a view to getting the health service to operate more efficiently.

Depending on how these so-called stepping stones work out, senior Coalition sources say the move to UHI in 2019 will be "a decision for the next government".

At the heart of UHI is the end of the two-tier health service, where public patients wait longer than private insurance holders for treatment.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin and their officials have expressed serious concerns about the cost of UHI and the financial implications for the State.

In response to the criticism for lacking detail on the cost of UHI, Dr Reilly has inserted a cap on spending linked to national expenditure.

“The Government is determined that total spending by the State on healthcare in Ireland under a single-tier UHI system should not exceed the total spending under the two-tier system, which it replaces.

“This approach will allow for cost effective, additional investment in health services, in line with increases that are consistent with our Constitutional and legal obligations under the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (the Fiscal Compact) and the Stability and Growth Pact,” the new language in the document says.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News