UHI Would Exceed Water Charges, Says Union

Universal Health Insurance (UHI) would cost Irish families far more than property tax or planned water charges, according to the IMPACT union.

In its submission to the consultation on the government’s white paper on UHI, the union said this would place "an impossible financial burden on families and individuals who don’t currently have private health insurance and don’t qualify for medical cards."

It said Health Minister James Reilly was "optimistic" to estimate that UHI would cost €900 per individual.

UHI is being proposed by the government as a means to transform the way the health service is structured and funded.

It would aim to eliminate the two-tier system of public and private medicine, as well as putting an end to the practice of queue-jumping for treatment by people who can afford to pay or who have private health insurance.

"It has been claimed that UHI can be introduced with no additional cost to the exchequer, which means any extra revenue would have to be raised through individual insurance premia," the union said.

"By far the biggest cost burden would fall on individuals and families who do not currently have private health insurance and who do not qualify for medical cards. Given the fact that private insurance delivers better access to health services, it is safe to assume that most people in this category simply cannot afford private health insurance. Yet they will be required by law to pay for private insurance for every family member. Even the minister’s seemingly optimistic estimate of a cost of €900 per individual would create an impossible financial burden on families and individuals who don’t currently have private health insurance and don’t qualify for medical cards. The Dutch experience suggests that this financial burden would then increase over time."

The union has urged the health minister to examine and consider the merits of an alternative approaches like those adopted in France, Germany and Nordic countries. "IMPACT recommends an alternative based on a single-payer social insurance model, along the lines of suggestions made by a growing number of social justice organisations in Ireland. A social insurance model would provide an equitable one-tier funding model capable of providing equality of access and a ‘right to health’ in Ireland. The government is urged to consider this social insurance model."


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