Plan for health insurance is affordable, says Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted Ireland can afford Universal Health Insurance (UHI) and it will be delivered during the lifetime of the Government despite disagreement among ministers as to how the scheme will work.

Plan for health insurance is affordable, says Kenny

UHI is a potential flashpoint among the Coalition partners after the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform claimed that Health Minister James Reilly’s proposals would threaten the financial viability of the State.

It also suggested that Mr Reilly’s proposals would cost over €1,600 per adult.

Mr Kenny told RTÉ the current two-tier system was unfair and universal health insurance would be introduced by 2019 — which would involve a single system in which everyone would have health insurance that would also cover GP care.

With plans under way to circulate a White Paper within the next couple of weeks, Mr Kenny said primary health care would be covered by the new insurance, and while people could spend extra to purchase a better quality hospital room, money would not buy a higher place in the queue.

Yesterday the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) criticised the Government’s failure to publish the White Paper claiming it was intent on introducing a system that would turn healthcare into a commodity and not a service.

“Insurance companies will be making decisions based solely on profit, not on patient care. It is only the wealthier that will benefit in a system where there is a standard basket of healthcare with added benefits being available for purchase by those who can afford it,” the IMO said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin emerged as the big winner in the latest opinion poll taken from February 19 to last Friday at the height of the GSOC and whistleblowing controversies.

Strong performances from its deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald were likely to have helped Sinn Féin surge to 22%, up six points.

The Sunday Independent Millward Browne poll also showed a five point rise in support for Independents who were on 20%.

The big losers were Fine Gael, whose support dropped to a pre–bailout level of 27%, down three, Labour were 8% down, four, while Fianna Fáil also dropped by five percentage points to 21%.

The results suggest Sinn Féin and Independents could make substantial gains in the forthcoming local elections.

Yesterday the Taoiseach said he would not be tempted to accept the position of European Council presidency when Herman Van Rompuy retires in the summer. Mr Kenny said he would be flattered but “I would not turn my back on the Irish.”

He was looking forward to the 2016 General Election and a second term in office, not that it would not be easy. “Back to back (wins) would be great. It is not easy to achieve and will be judged by the people in just over 104 weeks time”, he said.

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