Union calls for re-think on health insurance plan

Impact has called for a re-think of Health Minister James Reilly's universal health insurance (UHI) plan

A trade union representing 30,000 health workers has warned the Government’s proposed health insurance system will a place a “universal financial burden on families with no guarantee of universal access to healthcare”.

Impact has called for a re-think of Health Minister James Reilly’s universal health insurance (UHI) plan, as it carries inherent, financial uncertainties which, it claims, could put critical services at risk.

Impact’s national secretary, Louise O’Donnell, criticised the funding model outlined in the draft paper discussed at the cabinet health sub- committee earlier this week.

Ms O’Donnell referred to the fact that, while the final price of UHI had not yet been disclosed, it is expected to be in the region of €1,600.

“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.

“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.”

Ms O’Donnell said financial incentives to discharge patients early had also led to one of the highest hospital readmission rates in Europe because more people experience post-discharge complications.

Impact urged the Government to evaluate a “single- payer” social insurance model similar to 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. It was authored by independent healthcare expert Dr Jane Pillinger and published in 2012, but received no response from the minister.

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