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Minister reticent on UHI funding
[Posted: Wed 23/03/2011 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Health Minister James Reilly refused to be drawn yesterday on specific details of how his radical new universal health insurance (UHI) scheme will be funded, stressing that the new Government was 'only in the door' and the scheme was still very much at the planning stage.
The new Government has promised to introduce free GP care for all and universal access to hospital care, but questions have been raised about the costs and the timeframe of the new system.
Speaking to irishhealth.com after his first public function as Minister, Dr Reilly said improvements in access to free GP care would occur incrementally.
Universal health insurance (UHI), he said, should then commence before the end of the first term of Government. Asked if people would have equal access to hospital care before then or afterwards, Dr Reilly said some people will and some would have to wait a bit longer.
He said the full development of UHI with equal access for all to hospital care was unlikely to occur by the end of this term of Government, although some of the hospital care changes may have begun by then. "We always did say it was going to take two terms to fully bed in."
On how the UHI system would be funded, the Minister said free GP care would be funded from savings within the HSE. Dr Reilly declined to go into further details about how UHI would be funded, stressing that the new system was still at the planning stages and a universal health insurance commission had yet to be set up.
"It's a bit premature to talk just now about the exactitudes of how it is going to work."
The Minister accepted that people were concerned about how the new system would be funded, but the details would become clear later on and the new Government was 'only in the door.'
He accepted that economic recovery leading to more people in employment contributing to the insurance system would make it easier to fund universal insurance.
"But our commitment is there to bring in universal health insurance and to commence its introduction by 2016 and to have it fully bedded in before the second term of Government is over."
The Minister said no decision had yet been made on the children's hospital location issue.
"What I said I would do is look at the facts and I would make a decision then as to where to go from there. So that remains the situation."
The Minister said he had met with John Gallagher, chairman of the new children's hospital development board. He was taking advice from within his Department and the review was ongoing.
The Minister said work had started on the special delivery unit aimed at reducing waiting lists. He said they were considering who would be appointed to this unit. "We will be getting into that in a major way next week. Some (of the unit members) will be consultants, some will be nurses, some will be managers."
He said he was very concerned about waiting lists and part of the remit of the special delivery unit would be to address this issue.
The Minister said he had promised that this this situation would be brought under control within three years but he stressed that the new Government had only just assumed office and the special delivery unit was still being put together.
Dr Reilly reiterated that he expected A&E improvements this coming winter. A plan was being developed to deal with the predictable A&E surge that occurs every winter, the Minister said.
The new Minister was formally launching Ireland's first commercial air ambulance service, AeroMedevac Ireland, at Weston Airport in Co.Kildare. It offers emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of patients to and from Ireland.
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