Irish Medical Organisation

IMO says the Government’s plans for private insurance model of health funding won’t work

Tuesday 4th November 2014. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said that the Government’s plans for private insurance model of health funding won’t work. The organisation is hosting a special seminar on Funding Universal Healthcare tonight (7pm Tues 4th Nov) in the Radisson Hotel on Golden Lane in Dublin.

Speaking before the event the President of the IMO, Professor Trevor Duffy, said that the Government was guilty of “mis-selling” their plans for an insurance based financing model for healthcare as a commitment to Universal Healthcare itself. He said; “Universal Health INSURANCE IS NOT Universal HealthCARE. The Government is confusing two very different terms in the public mind and this is sowing the seeds of misunderstanding and confusion. The IMO is committed to Universal Healthcare where patients receive quality healthcare when they need it and at an affordable cost. All the Government have said is that they are in favour of Universal Health Insurance which is simply a funding mechanism…they are avoiding the really important debate as to what exactly the Insurance they admire so much is going to fund in terms of services.”

Professor Duffy identified three particular concerns over the insurance model being proposed by the Government:
1. Private Insurance based models tend to be amongst the most expensive in the world.
Countries which rely on private insurance based models (eg: United States, Netherlands and Switzerland) are amongst the most expensive healthcare systems in the OECD with particular high administrative and regulatory costs. Private providers and insurers vie for customers to increase turnover and market share on more profitable care while restricting access to more complex, cost-intensive care.

2. Private Insurance based models don’t eliminated two-tiered health systems, they institutionalise them.
To control costs, private insurance based models tend to restrict the standard basket of care and impose high out-of-pocket co-payments for care. In the Netherlands, the minimum basked of services covered has been gradually reduced and a mandatory deductible of €350 per annum applies to all care except GP visits. 85% of the Dutch population purchase supplementary and complementary private health insurance to cover care outside the basket.

3. Private Insurance based models restrict patient choice.
In the case of Insurance based models, private health insurers establish their own healthcare centres or contract with larger corporate providers to cut costs. This leads to closure of smaller facilities particularly in more remote and rural areas.

Professor Duffy also warned that simply replacing current financing levels with private insurance sourced finance as opposed to increasing actual financing levels would do nothing for the services which are currently starved of adequate resources to do the job intended for them; “Access to quality care requires significant investment in our Health Services which should not be left to market forces in private health insurance.”

Professor Duffy called on the Government to initiate a comprehensive public debate about a healthcare funding model before they commit further time and resources to the project; “The Government is at real risk of starting down the wrong road on this issue with huge consequences in terms of securing and developing a sustainable funding model for our health system. We need to have an urgent, full and honest debate now about what the alternatives are for the funding and resourcing of our public healthcare system. A private health insurance model will not benefit our health services or patients and will only drive profits into the insurance companies.

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