Government decision to drop universal health insurance was inevitable – IMPACT

“This leaves us back at square one, with no immediate prospect for the delivery of a single-tiered health service.” – Eamonn Donnelly, national secretary, IMPACT Health & Welfare division

Flawed proposals “leave us back at square one”

IMPACT has described reports today that the Government is to drop its proposed model for Universal Health Insurance (UHI), as inevitable.

IMPACT national secretary Eamonn Donnelly said that IMPACT had previously warned of the likelihood of prohibitive health insurance costs under the Government’s UHI proposals. “When the white paper on UHI was published last year we described it as fundamentally flawed, as it would place an impossible financial burden from the very start, particularly for the growing number of people without health insurance who don’t qualify for a medical card.”

Mr Donnelly said that IMPACT’s criticism of the original UHI model has been proved correct by the research commissioned by the Minister for Health, which has estimated that almost half the population would end up paying annual health insurance premiums in excess of €2,000. The union was also critical of the public consultation process which was restricted to considering the “competing insurers” model.

Mr Donnelly added, “Sadly, this leaves us back at square one, with no alternatives to the original flawed proposals, and no immediate prospect for the delivery of a single-tiered health service. The opportunity has been lost and it must fall now to the next government to tackle,” he said.

The union commissioned a report by Jane Pillinger in 2012 – The Future of Healthcare in Ireland – which said that the proposed competing insurers model should not be adopted before all options had been evaluated in terms of quality, equity, access to services, and medium and long term value-for-money.

The report said the principle of universal health care, based on equal access for all, needs to be developed in line with a funding model “that would genuinely provide universal and equal access to health services”. It stated that a social insurance model, rather than a model based on competition between private insurance companies, would be more likely to achieve this.

Mr Donnelly said that the report was disregarded by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, and his predecessor, Dr James Reilly, who had introduced the original proposals.

Related: Health insurance plans just don’t add up – Work & Life magazine Spring 2014