Tuesday 24 April 2018

Paper's long on the flowery prose, short on gritty detail


THE Government's white paper on universal health insurance is so full of rose-coloured prose and sunny optimism, that it feels unfair to question its ambition for a health service where everyone will be equal.

But we were sold some of the same promises, and another new dawn, a decade ago.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) was supposed to deliver us a seamless service, fewer waiting lists and more accountability.

The HSE is expected to be dissolved in around 18 months' time, to make way for the new agencies that will pave the way for mandatory health insurance for all by 2019.

The new system might work, but we don't know how much it will cost, or what premiums people will have to pay.

There is too little evidence provided in yesterday's document that is overly academic and lacking in gritty detail. It is also missing input from people who have actually run health insurance companies or operated this system.

It's what makes the next year so crucial in order to drill into figures, and make it clear to the public what kind of deal they are being promised.

Even if universal healthcare was never on the horizon, there would be merit in the health service getting more information, for instance, on the cost of procedures – that is part of the preparatory work.

There is unpalatable content for several groups, including hospital consultants who will see a drop in income, while the Government also wants the right to cap profits for health insurance firms.

We have yet to reach the stage of free GP care for the under-sixes, a small step on the long road.

That is already mired in disagreement with GPs – but if it comes to pass, it could give us some little sign that after this long pilgrimage of cuts, a new era might be for real.

Irish Independent

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