What is truth?

By Eilish O’Regan

Monday February 07 2011

Fine Gael will not be able to begin introducing a system of universal health insurance — ending the current public and private divide — for another five years, it emerged yesterday.

And it will take the best part of a decade before it is fully rolled out across the population , the party’s spokesman on health Dr James Reilly said.

He was outlining the timescale for the system which aims to see an end to queue-jumping by private patients with everyone in the country insured and on an equal footing.

Under the scheme to be phased in from 2016, GP care will be free and the State will pay premiums for children, students and medical card holders.

The majority of the population would pay no more than €300 annually per person. But he could not say what the cost of the other 44pc with higher incomes would be.

“It will take two terms to implement and may take further into the second term to implement it,” he said.

A more immediate promise was to “bring down waiting lists” and build strong community services where people with long-term illnesses, like diabetes, could go to be treated.

Dr Reilly gave no targets for reducing lists but said they would be borrowing a successful scheme introduced in Northern Ireland, which would see “a special delivery unit” set up nationally comprised of doctors and managers.

“They will meet with the manager of each hospital and once targets are agreed they are immovable. They will report weekly and sometimes daily to the Minister for Health. If there is a problem with resources this will be addressed and if a consultant is not doing the job they will be dealt with.”


He said he had not budgeted for extra hospital consultants to cut these waiting lists but believed it was possible to free up large hospitals and move routine work to smaller ones.

The party also said it would “abolish” the HSE and shed 8,000 backroom jobs over four years. Two thousand of these will go through a voluntary redundancy scheme costing €400m and the rest through natural wastage.

By 2014 he plans to dismantle the HSE, creating an interim Healthcare Commissioning Authority, which will only exist until the system of universal health insurance is in place.

Dr Reilly said this authority would purchase services from hospitals, which would no longer get a block grant annually.

Instead they would be paid per patient treated.

Dr Reilly said if Fine Gael was elected to government he would not be ordering the automatic opening of closed hospital beds, despite the high numbers of people who remain on hospital trolleys.

Fine Gael will also not be lifting the moratorium on recruitment but would aim to be more flexible in areas of the health service badly hit by staff shortages.

Asked about costings for the plan, Dr Reilly said the universal health insurance could be funded by using the existing €14bn in health spending and another €4bn currently paid in premiums to private health insurers.

Hospital consultants who are on public salaries of around €180,000 would no longer be able to top up their income with €300,000 in private fees once it was introduced. This would entail negotiating a new contract with specialists, he said.

Some €200m could be saved by the use of generic and cheaper medicines, he added. And the overtime and agency bill of €1.1bn could be cut.

“A huge amount of savings could also be made by moving people who can be treated in the community out of hospital. There are around 9,000 people attending the diabetic clinic in St James’s hospital who don’t need to be seen in a hospital,” he said.

– Eilish O’Regan



Under closer scrutiny we see that the promises from Fine Gael are now not what they led us to believe! Again we have proof that promises from the established political parties are not worth the paper they are not written on!

We now see that they are just as good at pulling strokes as Fianna Fail was.

They cannot be trusted ,at this rate I will be dead before I will have the health care that I have been paying for the past 27 years .Fine Gael are protecting their buddies (the consultants) after all , so Universal health care is just an empty promise!

Comments on: "Fine Gael’s empty promises of universal health care" (2)

  1. I am desperately trying to find out what exactly UHI is. I live in France and my daughter lives in NL, both quoted in the FG doc as having it. In France, the system is funded from the monthly contributions of the population, leading to a fund (which is currently, and has been for years, in deficit), which is used to fund the provision of health services. In addition, almost everybody pays for a ‘mutuel’ a (mostly private, some actual mutuals) insurance to get supplementary health care (teeth, glasses, etc.). In recent years the gov (who administer the contribution based element) has reduced what is provided under the basic scheme, and has required medics to prescribe and pharmacists to supply, only generic drugs, where they are available. In fact they are pushing people to more and more private provision.
    However, the real difference is in the prices. A registered GP (in the system, docs can opt not to be) is limited to €25 for a consultation, which is reimbursed, no more. So, drs only charge 25. In addition, there is no requirement to be ‘referred’ you can chose a specialist, if you wish, although it is usually your gp who suggests one, but you can take yourself to another one if you wish. Also, if you need an x-ray or a scan or a blood test, you get an order for it from the dr and can go to any of a number of ‘shops’ who provide the service, run by radiographers for the x-rays and scans and medical techs for the bloods. You pay your money, which, depending on your circumstances, is 100% or less reimbursed, and you can walk away with your results under your arm, within an hour…… and take it to any medic you like.

    So, real competitive service provision.

    TheNL system is essentially the same, different details but same principles.

    In both, the old and the young are subsidised, but through the contributions of the others, not through a begging bowl…..

    The other huge difference, the number of medical personnel is adequate, the systems have both been used to fund the training of the personnel. In addition, although there is a private sector in medicine, it is almost 100% separate from the ‘normal’ i.e. if you want to you can pay, but not in a public facility.

    From what I see/hear the FG scheme is less than 100% funded by the contributors and will certainly result in more private work, the huge question is will the prive work be done in 100% private facilites? I’d say not. Also, the necessity to nenotiate with the veted interests will ensure the fees are not actually controlled….

  2. of course I meant ‘vested interests’

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