Coalition tensions on health costs

Tensions have emerged between the coalition parties over the policy being pushed by Health Minister James Reilly

The Taoiseach said a “cost containment measure” will be included in legislation setting up Universal Health Insurance, after claims that the policy could result in a cost per family of up to €4,000 a year.

Tensions have emerged between the coalition parties over the policy being pushed by Health Minister James Reilly, which Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has concerns about on grounds of cost.

Mr Howlin said at the weekend that the issue was not yet gone to “a political level of discussions”. But he did not deny reports that his department had warned the proposal risked “creating a potentially open-ended financial liability for the Exchequer and the taxpayers”.

It was reported at the weekend that a letter sent by his Department to the Department of Health last week warned that the model could add an extra €5 billion to health care costs.

Dr Reilly’s officials responded, accusing Mr Howlin’s department of making “exaggerated and unsustainable claims about the Government’s universal health insurance policy”.

Speaking in Clonmel yesterday, Enda Kenny said the policy is “an agreed position by everybody in the programme for government” adding that the first stage of this was the introduction of free GP care for children under the age of six.

He said the report on Universal Health Insurance was still in “draft stage” at the moment.

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