Irish people had to spend €130 more per person in 2014 than in 2007 to get the same level of healthcare.
The findings are part of a new research project entitled Mapping the Pathways to Universal Healthcare in Ireland — details of which were revealed at a seminar for health policy experts at Trinity College.
The study found that each person in Ireland had to spend €130 more in 2014 than in 2007 to get the same healthcare. This means that people are paying €600m more for essential drugs and hospital care than in 2007.
The overall conclusion of the report is that there is a huge gap between the intent of universal healthcare and what is actually in place, with the result that people are experiencing greater difficulty in accessing healthcare thanks to longer waiting times and higher drug charges.
Progress towards universal healthcare is in “disarray” with a series of delays and deferrals, according to the new research.
The study also found that, with the exception of free GP care for the youngest and oldest, there “has been little change” in the proportion of the population who can access healthcare without charge since the current Government came into power.
The research highlighted that it is more difficult for people to access healthcare, evident in longer waiting times for essential hospital treatment and higher charges for prescription drugs.
It also stated that introduction of life-time community rating whereby over-35s are penalised for not taking out private health insurance — demonstrates the Government’s “increasing incoherence in policy measures”.
The report found that the measure actually exacerbates the two-tier health system the Government set out to dismantle.
Associate professor at the Centre for Health Policy and Management in Trinity College, Dr Steve Thomas, who leads the project, said access to healthcare has become more difficult for people under austerity.
“Over the austerity period we increased the financial barriers to accessing health care so that in 2014 we required each person in Ireland to spend €130 more than in 2007 to get the same care. This is inconsistent with international and Irish commitments to universal healthcare. We need to reverse this process and as the economy expands dismantle current financial barriers,” he said.
Chief executive at the Health Research Board (HRB), Graham Love, said the only health policy that will succeed in Ireland is one based on evidence.
“We can have all the debates we want in relation to health and health policy, but if we want health policies and health decision-making that will work in the long-term, then decisions must be guided by quality evidence,” said Mr Love.
“The HRB is committed to supporting Ireland’s capacity to make evidence-informed health policies by investing in the people, the systems and the supports that are necessary to achieve this,” he said.
The project is being undertaken by the Centre for Health Policy and Management in the School of Medicine in Trinity College and has been funded by the Health Research Board.
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