ESRI: Last Government's Universal Health Insurance plan would not have achieved goals

The ESRI has published a paper looking at the requirements for achieving universal healthcare.

According to the report, the model of Universal Health Insurance proposed by the last Government could have increased costs without achieving its goals.

The paper recommends that if Ireland is to deliver universal healthcare it may have to consider different methods to achieve it, such as introducing compulsory private insurance for elective hospital care.

The study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), entitled ‘Challenges in Achieving Universal Healthcare in Ireland’, argues there should be a mechanism to tackle Ireland’s two-tier acute hospital care system based on either a public or private purchaser pathway.

Referring to “other inequities and financial barriers to access in Irish healthcare”, the report states that Ireland has a “complex system” at a time when “the international consensus view of the desirability of universality in healthcare is further based on evidence about outcomes for individuals, society, and the economy, with denial of access to care resulting in poorer health outcomes and a diminution in the potential of human capital”.

The report outlines how, in Europe, UHI models are funded either by a tax-financed system or a social insurance-financed system, but states: “No two countries’ healthcare systems are identical and a successful Irish reform is likely to have its own distinct features built on the existing system.”

Committee member of the Irish medical organisation GP committee Dr Ray Walley said we needed action.

"I would hope this becomes part of the Government's plans to look at how we fund healthcare. We need more debate on the issue, but we need action," he said.

"We're great at producing glossy documents, but we're not good at actioning these things. We have an exponential increase in the healthcare needs of patients with obesity and an ageing population.

"We need to fund (healthcare) now, because it's going to cost more money in the longterm if we don’t fund it now."

Regarding a universal hospital care system, the report says that in addition to a purely tax-financed NHS-style system, another approach would be to develop the model of the National Treatment Purchase Fund purchase of private care for people on public waiting lists, or by introducing compulsory private insurance for elective hospital care.

“Such a system should be designed to ensure payment according to ability to pay and Government control of insurers’ margins and other costs,” according to the report, which is officially launched today.

Additional reporting by

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Noel Baker.

KEYWORDS: ESRI, health, lifestyle


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