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Taoiseach’s weight behind UHI

17 Oct 2014

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny

The Taoiseach has insisted it is the Government’s intention “to deliver on Universal Health Insurance (UHI), by putting in place the building blocks”. Speaking to IMT at the Saolta hospital Groups conference in Westport, Enda Kenny delivered a strong endorsement of UHI, on the basis of the Government’s White Paper.

He said a fundamental feature would be a consideration of the costings. The Minister for Health, Dr Leo Varadkar, believes that it will not be possible to introduce a full UHI system by 2019, as envisaged in the UHI White Paper.

A funding model based on UHI is being developed. This includes the White Paper blueprint but it will also look more widely at a number of different options. “Minister Varadkar has already commissioned work on the costings that will apply here,” the Taoiseach said. This process — led by the ESRI’s Prof Richard Layte and the Health Insurance Authority — involves an examination of the likely cost of premiums under the UHI model.

The Taoiseach said the Government wanted to end the discriminatory income-based two-tier health system.

“We want patient-centred healthcare, where patients are treated on the basis of their medical requirements, rather than what they have got in their pocket,” Kenny said. “That is the concept and the principle we intend to implement.”

Minister Varadkar has said he remains committed to “implementing reforms based on UHI and the White Paper”.

An independent thematic analysis of 137 submissions from the consultation process on the White Paper — now with the Minister — and the results of the major costing exercise on UHI, would “assist in charting a clear course towards the objective of a universal, single-tier health service”, Minister Varadkar said.

The Department of Health has told Minister Varadkar that the proposed organisational structures underlying UHI — which might involve replacing the HSE with a myriad of quangos — were an ‘unworkable construct’. It was now trying to find a construct that was workable, the Department said.
A purchaser-provider split in health is still possible, even if the proposed model of UHI is not adopted.
There were decisions to be made on the nature of the planned purchaser-provider split, and the results of the current funding review would assist in determining future moves with regard to UHI, Hawkins House said. How much the cost would be, under a multipayer, competing insurer model is now being gauged. A number of possible figures have been floated, including a possible €920 UHI annual premium.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times