Majority in favour of universal healthcare, survey finds

Dr Pixie McKenna

The majority of Irish people want a fairer health system based on need, even if it means having to pay more tax, new research has revealed.

Some 53% would prefer universal healthcare - part-funded by a 1% income tax hike - giving all citizens equal access to treatment, regardless of wealth.

A study of attitudes to healthcare also revealed that people are less concerned about their health in the recession than they were during the economic boom.

Dr Pixie McKenna, Cork GP and TV presenter, said while financial worries are inevitable in the current economic climate, it is still important for people to look after their health.

The host of Channel 4's 'Embarrassing Bodies' said: "An increase in drinking and smoking is a cause for concern as is the apparent antipathy towards adopting healthier habits.

"I would urge everyone to take stock of their health and appreciate it as one of the most important assets you can possess."

According to the Pfizer Health Index, up to a fifth of people consider universal healthcare access as a top-three priority, while the number of people with private health insurance has fallen by 120,000 in the past year.

However, despite the support for universal healthcare, 15% said they are opposed to it.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition outlined in March this year in the Programme for Government plans to introduce Universal Health Insurance. The aim is to end the public-private battle for services and provide free GP care.

Meanwhile, the number of people this year who are reluctant to adopt a healthy lifestyle has more than doubled since 2005 - from 14% to 35%.

Rates of those who do wish to get fit have dropped from 35% in 2005 to 25% this year, while smoking and alcohol rates have also increased.

The Pfizer Health Index, carried out by researchers at Behaviour and Attitudes, surveyed 971 adults aged 16 and over nationwide at the end of July and start of August.

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