Health Minister James Reilly’s compulsory health insurance plan “won’t come cheap” but could guarantee “excellent” cover for patients, an independent expert has predicted.
Health insurance specialist Dermot Goode made the claim after leaked details Dr Reilly’s controversial universal health insurance initiative finally emerged yesterday.
Under the move, which Dr Reilly has staked his reputation on by saying it is the only reason he entered politics, the current two-tier, public-private health system will be replaced by a service guaranteeing the same right to care for every person.
However, opposition parties have claimed it is effectively a “new tax” that could cost people €1,600 a year.
The plan, which is detailed in a draft Government “white paper” document due to go before cabinet early next week, proposes that everyone will be insured for a standard level of care. This will include free GP care, primary care, maternity and infant care, acute treatment, and mental health care access.
Anyone seeking more extensive coverage, such as private hospital support, will be asked to pay extra.
Similarly to the property tax, those who choose not to pay for compulsory health insurance will have it taken directly from their salary or state benefits.
As part of the plan, which has caused a rift in the coalition in recent weeks and which Dr Reilly wants imposed by 2019, people on lower incomes will also have their basic cover paid for by the State.
However, among the potential pitfalls is that certain groups will have their cover “risk-rated” — potentially meaning costs for older people could increase significantly.
The move has led to opposition party claims the proposed policy is a “major tax hike” on the public.
However, while admitting the plan will not come cheaply, Dermot Goode of healthinsurancesavings.ie said it has the potential to revolutionise the system.
According to the independent health insurance expert, the “key question for consumers is cost”.
However, while the move “is not cheap”, the “cover is excellent”, with “a one-tier healthcare system where everyone can access quality treatment regardless of their income” opening the possibility of the removal of waiting lists over time.
Fianna Fáil health spokes-man Billy Kelleher claimed the plan will effectively become a “major tax hike” for the majority of people.
“The ceding of so much control of costs and spending to health insurance companies, implicit in Dr Reilly’s plan, also means it will be private industry that is responsible for deciding the scale of such tax hikes,” said Mr Kelleher.
“The Department of Public Expenditure has estimated the average cost of a policy under Dr Reilly’s plans to be €1,600.”
However, Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it is “important” claims are not “exaggerated”.
“We are involved in probably the biggest change to our health system. I think everybody understands that we need to reform our health service.”
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