Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - National Health Insurance Scheme.


asked the Minister for Health if he will explain the general changes he has in mind under his proposal for a comprehensive compulsory national health insurance scheme incorporating the Voluntary Health Insurance Board.

As the Deputy will appreciate the major issues in changing the present entitlement and funding arrangements in the health services are complex and will need very careful and comprehensive examination.

I propose to deal with these issues in a White Paper on the Health Services which I propose to publish before the end of this year.

Prior to the publication of the White Paper there will, of course, be full consultation with all interested parties including Government Departments, members of the Oireachtas and of political parties, health boards, voluntary hospitals and other health agencies, the Voluntary Health Insurance Board, the various statutory and other bodies dealing with the health professions and the unions and staff organisations concerned.

All these and any other interested groups will be invited by me to make submissions in due course.

Would the Minister agree that he caused considerable concern in a number of areas in the health services because of the statement he made in The Irish Times in relation to his desire for a comprehensive compulsory health insurance scheme incorporating the VHI? Statements such as this can only cause concern among the health boards, the public and those concerned with voluntary hospitals.

I also said in that interview that while I was wholly in favour of a universal system of entitlement to the health services on a public national health service basis, we must all be prepared to pay for such a system. Above all it must be an effective cost control system. With these criteria in mind I intend to prepare a White Paper. Naturally since 30 per cent of the population are in the VHI, the role of the VHI and those who are contributing will have to be encompassed in such a White Paper. There is no cause for concern but there is cause for concern that we are now spending £980 million a year on health services and I do not believe that the country is getting the kind of service it should have for that money.

Speeches are not appropriate either way.

I will leave it at that.

Question No. 13.

The Minister mentioned criteria. In those criteria is he thinking along the lines of the British system?

The British system has a great deal to commend it.

The Minister is, therefore, thinking along these lines. The Minister would want to look at the Irish system and see how much there is to commend.

The Chair has discretion and when the Chair exercises that discretion we pass to the next question. We have now done that and I would ask the Minister to answer Question No. 13.