Howlin backs universal health insurance, denies rift with Reilly

The Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said he supports universal health insurance, despite his Department's claim that it poses a risk to the financial viability of the State.

Brendan Howlin also denied there was a personal rift between himself and Health Minister James Reilly.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform raised concerns that the coalition's plan for universal health insurance could add €5bn a year to healthcare costs.

An assessment of the plan seen by the Irish Times claimed medical card holders would end up paying about €700 a year in drug costs, and added the financial stability of the state could be jeopardised.

That assessment was not denied by Minister Brendan Howlin when he arrived at the Labour Party's national conference, but he denied reports of a personal rift with the health minister over this issue.

Minister Reilly, meanwhile, said the plans for Universal Health Insurance would "end the unfair two-tier health system" and that costs would be carefully controlled.

"It is hoped that a White Paper with key information on the intended shape of UHI will be published in the next weeks," he said in a statement.

"The Department of Health has given clear assurances to show that UHI will be introduced with strong measures to control the costs."


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