IMPACT calls for “total rethink” of compulsory health insurance plans

IMPACT has called for a total rethink of health minister James Reilly’s plans for universal health insurance (UHI). The union says the funding model outlined in a draft white paper, which was discussed at the cabinet health sub-committee last week, would “place a universal financial burden on families with no guarantee of universal access to healthcare.”

IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell said that, while the final price of UHI had not yet been disclosed, it was expected that it would be in the region of €1,600 for an individual. “The experience in Holland, which has a similar funding model to that proposed by the Government, has been a continuing rise in the price of compulsory insurance, coupled with increasing restrictions on the health services covered,” she said.

Ms O’Donnell said the UHI model chosen by the minister carries inherent financial uncertainties that could also put critical services at risk. “The minister has based his approach to UHI on policy in The Netherlands, where a system of competing private insurers has created an inequitable and inefficient system of funding, different tiers of entitlement, rising hospital deficits, and even bankrupt hospitals,” she said.

Financial incentives to discharge patients early have also left Holland with one of the highest hospital readmission rates in Europe because more people experience post-discharge complications.

IMPACT has urged the Government to evaluate an alternative ‘single-payer’ social insurance model like those used in France, Germany and Nordic countries. “The ‘competing insurers’ model should not be adopted before all the options have been evaluated in terms of quality, equity, access to services, and medium and long term value-for-money,” according to the union’s report The Future of Healthcare in Ireland . The report was authored by independent healthcare expert Dr Jane Pillinger and published in 2012, but received no response from the minister.

The union is calling for a full examination of a range of UHI funding models, not just the single ‘competing private insurers’ model outlined in the draft white paper