155,163 registered members
FG plans €1.1 billion in health cuts
[Posted: Sun 20/02/2011 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Fine Gael says it will cut €1.1 billion from health service spending over the next four years to reduce the Exchequer deficit.
The party, outlining more details of its health policy today, said it would also set aside €115 million to be funded from savings in other parts of the health service to back up key initiatives in IT, mental health, long-term care and childcare.
In addition, €150 million per annum, provided from savings outside the health system will be used to boost GP services by building additional primary care centres to treat more patients outside hospitals.
Specific health cutbacks and savings measures to be implemented by 2014 include taking a further 2,000 staff off the HSE payroll through voluntary redundancy, in addition to the 8,000 already set to leave under existing early exit schemes and natural retirement.
Other measures will include reducing hospital consultants' earnings by €60 million, savings from the party's planned 'money follows the patient' changes to hospital funding, phasing out the National Treatment Purchase Fund, drug cost savings, and cutting overtime and allowances.
Under the party's Universal Health Insurance (UHI) plan, all the population would be insured for equal access to public and private hospital and GP care in a one-tier system, with access based on medical need and not ability to pay.
The system would be regulated by the State, but much of it would be run by private insurance companies.
Those on lower incomes will be totally covered or subsidised by the State for the cost of insurance, while others will pay insurance contributions, the levels of which have not yet been specified by Fine Gael.
However, the party claims increased competition in the system and rigorous cost-monitoring will help control the price of insurance contributions to the universal scheme for those who do not get subsidised cover. It points out that similar health reforms in the Netherlands have led to a 7% drop in insurance premiums.
Fine Gael says under its UHI plan, universal insurance-based hospital care will be provided under the plan by 2016, but it will take longer to introduce free GP care for all, as promised.
It says during the first term of a Fine Gael Government, it will extend free State-provided GP care to all children and students and those with chronic medical conditions, in addition to people already covered for free care under the medical card scheme.
Fine Gael also promises by 2016 to subsidise those on low incomes who are above the threshold for a medical card - people in this category will pay in the region of €200 to €300 per annum. The party says free GP care will be extended to everyone in a second term of a Fine Gael Government "as the country's finances improve."
While Fine Gael, in its latest election health policy paper criticises alleged funding anomalies in Labour's quite similar universal insurance plan, Fine Gael itself has still not provided details of exactly how its own insurance plan will be funded, or how much people not subsidised by the State will eventually pay for the universal insurance scheme.
At a press briefing today, Fine Gael criticised the Labour health insurance plan as it says this would involve keeping "the deeply dysfunctional HSE in existence as a second state insurer."
It claims Labour's system will give the State excessive control of the health insurance market and restrict competition. Fine Gael intends to have phased out the HSE by 2016, after which many former HSE staff will transfer to hospitals.
Under Labour's plan, the NTPF and the HSE would combine to become a care purchasing agency and this agency would eventually become the new public insurer.
Fine Gael also queried Labour's costings for its universal insurance health plan for all under its insurance system which would provide GP care within four years and universal hospital insurance over six years.
Fine Gael says the funding would simply not be there to provide free GP care at the point of entry for everyone so quickly. However, it has not itself yet produced detailed funding figures for its UHI scheme.
Fine Gael claims Labour has given very few details on what reductions it will make in health spending to meet even its reduced deficit reduction targets by 2016.
Other Fine Gael health pledges include:
*Abolition of the medical card prescription charge.
*Restoration of the medical card dental scheme.
*End of block grants to hospitals - change to activity-based funding.
*Special delivery unit aimed at reducing waiting lists.
*Reform of childcare/protection services.
*Individual hospitals/networks to be managed by trusts.
*New patient safety body,incorporating HIQA, which would scrutinise and monitor the new insurance system.
*A&E will continue to be funded from tax revenue, with private insurers contributing to A&E services.
*Reform of the current health insurance market.
See also 'Can FG/Lab deliver health utopia?'
|To join the discussion, register by clicking here|