An independent report on the funding of healthcare, commissioned by Fianna Fáil as part of its work to develop radical and comprehensive proposals for a fairer health system in Ireland, has raised serious concerns about the government’s proposed introduction of universal health insurance.
The author of the report is Dr Brian Turner, an economist at University College Cork who specialises in health and insurance issues.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher said: “This report suggests that there is simply insufficient evidence from international systems to suggest that a change in the funding mechanism along the lines planned by the Government would produce benefits sufficient to justify the disruption that such a change would cause.
“Indeed there is some evidence to suggest that such a move would lead to higher costs for the Irish public without significant improvements in health outcomes.
“The report shows how the Dutch system, on which Fine Gael based much of its Faircare proposals prior to the 2011 election, and which introduced universal private health insurance with managed competition in 2006, has seen health care spending per capita increase by 46% between 2005 (the last year prior to reform) and 2010 (the most recent data point) (OECD, 2013).
“This system, which is based on competing insurers selectively contracting with providers, with consumers obliged to purchase insurance, is similar to that proposed in Ireland by the current Government. There are very serious alarm bells ringing now about the direction in which Fine Gael and Labour are taking the health service. We have already seen the withdrawal of local services and thousands of people being forced to give up their health insurance cover.
“The Report points out how, in view of the significant structural reforms that have taken place in the Irish health system in the last decade, it may be better to maximise the benefits of the existing system. There is also evidence that the maintenance of a tax-funded system, controlled by the government, would have a number of benefits over a multi-purchaser, insurance-based system.
“Dr. Turner points out that any reform of the funding mechanism would ensure costs (including administrative costs and the opportunity costs of the time taken to design and manage the process of reform), which would need to be set against any benefits that might arise.
“The fact that the Government is so far behind its own schedule on the introduction of Universal Health Insurance, the loss of cover by thousands of families, and the threatened viability of the private health insurance market in Ireland have led us to conclude that the Government is on the wrong track and this needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.
“Fianna Fáil is committed to bringing forward radical proposals on creating a fairer health system. Our National Health Policy Conference and this Report have been important steps in that process.”