Reilly fails to outline cost of UHI plan to public at launch

James Reilly at the UHI launch today. Pic: Collins Photos.

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Health Minister Dr James Reilly has claimed everyone will be a winner as a result of his universal health insurance plan, but has failed to reveal exactly how much it will cost the public.

The comments were made at the launch earlier today of the complex Government policy, which is aiming to overhaul the existing two-tier health system and replace it with a fairer single-tier model by 2019.

Under the proposed plan — which has in recent weeks led to internal Coalition disputes over whether it is affordable — standard care will cost the same for everyone, regardless of age or health.

This is because all people in Ireland will be told to take up health insurance, with the State subsidising them in certain cases.

Those who are unemployed or on low incomes will be fully or partially subsidised after a means assessment, while people just above this threshold will also be supported.

While the specific services involved will not be finalised until after a wide-reaching public consultation process over the coming months, Dr Reilly said free GP care and better access to life-saving treatments are central to the policy.

However, despite being repeatedly asked for clarity during a two-hour press briefing at Government Buildings, the Minister was unable to confirm how much the public should expect to pay when the move is implemented — other than to say it will not cost more than the current €920 a year private health insurance average.

The move towards an equal-access health system has been lauded by some patient groups as a vital way to reform the service.

However, opposition parties have claimed serious gaps remain in how the policy will operate, while doctors and health insurers have raised concerns over the impact on their income and ability to provide services.

Concern has also been raised over whether the cost of the plan to the public will effectively amount to an extra tax, a claim Dr Reilly has staunchly denied.

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