Press Release

Statement by the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D., on Financing Universal Healthcare

“Money should follow patient’s best health – what matters most is how we use resources, not how we raise them”

Speaking at the Adelaide Hospital Society Conference on healthcare financing today, the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney welcomed ‘open and honest debate on the very complex issue of health financing’.

She warned against creating false expectations by moving from taxation to levies or insurance as the basis for funding healthcare.

She said ‘money should follow the patient’s best health. What matters most is how resources are used, not how resources are raised from the public.’

The Minister highlighted the importance of the work of the Resource Allocation Group she had set up to advise on new ways to apply resources for patients.

She also highlighted the importance of building on existing public services, such as in the Cancer Strategy and with the new Children’s Hospital.

She said that the two very different proposals for Social Health Insurance and Compulsory Private Health insurance were often presented as offering unlimited healthcare.

‘One can’t construct a healthcare system where every hospital will treat as many patients as turn up, as often as they turn up, because every time the hospital earns money from treating that patient. That may be the case in businesses, which earn a profit per sale or per customer, but in health, it completely ignores that the pool of money to pay for unlimited treatments is limited itself.

‘No insurance company can stay solvent if it has to meet unlimited claims with a fixed premium income from its customers. No state insurance fund will stay solvent either.’

The Minister pointed out that the additional €2.8bn estimated for the top Social Insurance proposal was more than the existing Health Levy already taken from payrolls.

She stressed her commitment to enforcement of the new contract for consultants in relation to public-private ratios and fair access for public patients. She said she would back actions to take away private fee earnings from consultants who exceeded the limit of private work.

The Minister said ‘a pure one-tier system is not on offer, from anyone that I can see. Let us be clear and honest about that. Both Social Health Insurance and Compulsory Private Health Insurance recognise that people will still be free to purchase additional private health insurance, and go to doctors and hospitals privately, above and beyond the State benefits package.’

She concluded, ‘the agenda we are leading in Government now for health policy contains many key elements that are in fact common to all systems of healthcare, no matter how they are financed.’